by ANNE DALY
“Nothing” you used to say, “will ever be as perfect as how Rembrandt painted lace.” I didn’t believe you, saw nothing to admire in those stiff portraits with the moonish faces and dark clothes of people who died centuries ago.
I didn’t believe you, until you showed me. How the threads of those collars spoke of more than just wealth. How hand and brush can capture the intricacies of light. The dazzle of white lead pigments, rising and falling over shade. Pinpricks of black on the crest of a wave that spills itself across a shoulder or neck, pearl-soaked and solemn under the stillness of a varnish glaze.
The lace was almost transparent. And I so often think of it when the evening paints leaves on the wall. Sitting in the half-light, the room becomes a canvas of charcoal and ash. I feel the emptiness of your chair, as a mother feels the space her child used to fill when they climbed up on her lap. And I think of it, when I reach out and curl my fingers around the absence of your hand and all I can find is air.
The scalloped stitches fan out, a flicker of skeins that flower moonlight on the wings of a moth. They curl around each other, circular mouths that hint at hidden tongues, the flesh-warmed air that hides beneath a ruff. “But look closer”, you once said, “It is not always what is painted that holds the eye, but the silence that stirs underneath.”
Anne Daly is a writer who lives in Co. Meath, Ireland. Her short fiction and poems have appeared in a number of online and print journals. Her writing has recently featured in Drawn to the Light Press, The Honest Ulsterman and Beir Bua Journal. She won second place in the Allingham Fiction Prize, 2021.