The Kitchen Maid
(after ‘Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus’ by Velázquez)
by Leanne O’Sullivan
All the ceremonies of the kitchen
come through – sunlight on the bread boards
and flour swept up from the bare floors;
so her footsteps vanish like pools of rain
on the road, her swiftness towards the fire
unproven where she heaps the deeper red
around the bastible, enough for mystery to keep
and the soft notes of bread
to rise, companionable, from their dark centre.
The meal table set and laid, the vessels shining
with room for the guest portion,
a sign that means kind labour
without speaking or remembering itself,
but heard about afterwards, in her absence –
how a certain light breaking across the table
might set a whole world in motion.
You can find this poem in A Quarter of an Hour.