Afternoon the time.  The season winter.
In the studio, light thick as cream
filters through a barely noticed window
taken for granted, as we do with daylight.
Behind the figure, a sketched mantelpiece;
in front of it a canvas
whose back we see—its wooden frame, its staples.


In the center of the composition
a face—intent, dark, female, more or less.
A left hand holds a brush up to the canvas,
hovering close to it but not quite touching,
poised to revise the image of a self.


That face both is and isn’t looking out at us,
is and isn’t looking at itself;
is looking and not looking both at once
into the frame, the mirror,
the window of the canvas, the red sweater,
that irreplaceable moment in the room
of which I am a witness,
that square of silence.  Call it afternoon.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University–Newark. She is the author of Poems for Camilla, as well as new verse translations of Euripides's two Iphigenia plays, among other works.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up