The summer cottage was lit like a Dutch painting,
dim kerosene lamps capped
by opaque glass shades,
a crackling fire in a distant hearth,
light licking brief whips
against the bare pine walls.
My father and uncle huddled together,
shadowy figures talking politics
as if in some deep conspiracy
Nixon, LBJ, Vietnam, law and order.
Insubstantial as memories,
shadows within shadows within shades.
It was like the Vermeer painting
of two women sitting in a kitchen
whom you spy through a doorway,
intrusive as a voyeur.
One holds a lute in her lap;
both wear bonnets.
You aren't supposed to be here!
A little voice, thrilling, whispered, warned.
This is not for you to hear!
Not the subject, not the politics,
but the give-and-take
between my father and his brother,
the smoldering violence of their disagreement,
about to burst into flames,
like a log collapsing in the fireplace
with a deafening whoosh!
shooting up a mouthful of flames,
lighting up the room
in brilliant uproar.