Vermeer’s Milkmaid

After the painting 'The Milkmaid'
Johannes Vermeer, 1658


An early start, the milk from the dairy
setting the yeast to rise
alone in the morning you know the ritual.

Udder and flank firm and warm, a dreamy
calm split by the piss of milk
harsh till the bucket fills with froth.

Now your hand, safe around the jug’s belly
trusted to pour the trickle of milk
for centuries. Apart from the pouring, silence.

And the smell of fresh bread is silent.
And your thoughts are your own
silent shadows, cupped in folds of blue cloth

and you remember the night, warm and firm
and dark, when your body in the silence
sparked a longing to suckle.