This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Jordi Alonso, is from Shade of Blue Trees by Kelly Cressio-Moeller, released by Two Sylvias Press in 2021.
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
after Johannes Vermeer, oil on canvas, c.1663
It was mid-afternoon when I arrived in Amsterdam. The flight from California fueled a headache I couldn’t shake. I checked into my hotel room, hoping a hot shower would restore me. I was slipping on my robe when I noticed the blinking red light on the room’s phone: a message from my mother to call home. Her voice was low, a strange mixture of indecision and sadness. She spoke slowly as though lowering an anchor; there had been an accident. Tommy, close as a brother, was dead: a drunk driver crossed the divider, hit him head-on, the engine in his lap. I don’t remember telling her goodbye, hanging up the phone, or getting dressed, but I rode the elevator down and walked the stone-paved streets, shellshocked under a turquoise sky.
At the Rijksmuseum, whose rib-vaulted portico reminded me of a Gothic crypt, bicycles sped through the passageway before I entered. Upstairs, Vermeer had a room of his own. I stepped off the hardwood floor and sank deep into blue carpet. She was on the damask wall next to The Milkmaid, illuminated by skylight glow—so small, she could fit in my suitcase. But I didn’t care about the light or the colors. I didn’t care about the woman or the news in her letter. It was the map hanging behind her. The one detail that had seemed incidental before was all I could focus on now—all those meandering lines leading to and away from home.
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