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Vermeer's "Woman Holding a Balance" by Ilona Martonfi

You ask, where is Oude Langendijk, the Grote Markt, the Old Town in Delft? The violet of the wild irises

dead colouring, underpainting, made in cold colours and the plague that spread out along moats and brick gates? A row of worn façades with tie rod trusses and mortar and all the ochre of the cobbles of stone bridges crossing beech-lined canals. All the light through louvered shutters

17th-century Dutch middle-class society where at first burghers ignored the pest

I weighing unborn souls, the gold, the pearls

from every house the bad air. Red swellings and blood. And from then on all the slate white plaster walls wet over dry madder. The peeling paint, mottled limewash loud with voices, the merchants, and from then on with its dogs and flying kites. Windmills draining polder lands.

And you ask about my four flaxen-haired children, buried in the family crypt, in the Oude Kerk.

Where blue stained glass windows.

Ilona Martonfi is an editor, poet, curator, and activist. Author of four poetry books, the most recent collection is Salt Bride (Inanna, 2019). Forthcoming, The Tempest (Inanna, 2021). Writes in journals, anthologies, and six chapbooks. Curator Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.

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