A43727.jpgJohannes Vermeer


“The Balance of the World is Tested”
After Vermeer, A Woman Holding a Balance

It’s staged and restaged but the room’s
essential elements are static: cluttered light

that even Baroque metropolises emanate,
strained through dust and barterings and down

from the high, hinged window suggesting itself
with an egg-wash glow. Often, as in this work, we expect

a table flush against the wall. The same props pretend
to have never met before, while the Last Judgement supervises

the very set-up the artist has accustomed us to.
A life held in balance, a woman composed between

the crosshairs. We require her to tilt her covered head
To lower her gaze. We drape her in royal blue and white fur,

ensure she is thickly padded against drafts
and sharp objects. We estimate her value. She’ll tip

us between patience and possibility, and we hold still
to see if the pearls stray from us, if we’re poised on higher ground.


Phoebe Wang’s debut collection of poetry, Admission Requirements, appeared with McClelland and Stewart in Spring 2017. Currently she is a poet-in-residence with the national organization Poetry in Voice, and works at OCADU’s Writing and Learning Centre where she coordinates Mighty Pen, a writing circle for BIPOC students.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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