Myrna Stone

Excerpts from Catharina Vermeer’s Daybook

~ the 26th day of April in the Year of Our Lord 1673

Even after all these years, Johannes
compels my attention, his tread light and quick
upon the stairs to our chamber door, desirous
enough to roil my heart within the cincture

of my linen stays. He wheedles to paint me
thus, my mulberry bodice unlaced, my petticoat
a plush of yellow carmine pooling at my feet,
my cheeks madder red. His grounding tint,

a deeply pearlescent dusky gray, he argues,
is already laid down on the canvas. Yet, I resist.
Immodesty, I tell him, is not within your view,
and what would Moeder say if you persist?

Still, it seems that what my will disputes
my heart, in the end, shall choose to mute.

~ the 5th day of July in the Year of our Lord 1673

Six days ago the raw ache of intractable
sorrow descended upon us like a plague. Jager,
our sweet boy babe who loved most the versal
lingo of the courtyard’s fat, feather—

crested chickens, and often mimicked it,
was at one and a half sorely beset in the bleak
midnight hours betwixt vespers and matins
by a sweating sickness and its fever.

Neither pleas, nor promises, nor a grim
last bloodletting altered his course, and by dawn
he was dead. In the last of June we buried him
at the Oude Kerk in a riot of birdsong.

Nightly I pray that his soul may forever abide
with our lost others, and in their grace, happify.

~ the 16th day of September in the Year of Our Lord 1673

After weeks of plying Moeder’s maternal
bent, my brother, Willem, lodges with us again.
Yet he has not reformed. Nocturnal as a feral
cat, he carouses, then puerile, complains

when the children disturb him as he naps
through the day in Moeder’s best bedchamber.
Despite Noortje’s efforts to keep them rapt
with her cook’s kitchen tales of martyred

saints and specious miracles, they too
are not reformed. Surely the true miracle here
is Moeder’s strict forbearance. We are wooed
by it, each of us coddled within its sphere

except for Willem, who, deep in another souse,
raves that one day her house will be his house.

~ the 11th day of November in the Year of our Lord 1673

Having found Willem besotted this morn
on the doorstep of the Jesuit schuilkerk next door,
Moeder took him to task. You are all but shorn
of sense
, she railed, then left him to Noortje’s

indignant restraint. But even her burly brace
failed to contain his behavior. Denied his spirits,
he soon invaded Moeder’s wine cellar in a grave
assault upon her cache of Bordeaux clarets,

his temper growing fouler with each erratic
imbibing. A despoot, like our father, by midday
he took to threatening me with a pointed stick,
jabbing me twice with it, his pokes less play

than a means to spoil the nascent child I carry.
Have a care, Will, I warned, for I too plow fury.

~ the 13th day of November in the Year of our Lord 1673

Now that Willem is gone, Moeder—having
again committed him and his constant malefactions
to Taerling’s House of Correction—resumes knitting
woolen stockings and mittens to counteract

winter’s chilblains and every sort of purgatory.
While Elisabeth entertains Catharina and Ignatius
in the nursery, Gertruyd and Beatrix mime mastery,
plying their needles under Moeder’s captious

glances. Even Johannes, forgoing his canvas,
joins us briefly with his pipe, his manner pleasing
and leisurely, his sizable feet propped on a damask
stool. Thus do we transit the ides of evening

by the fireside as I record it in the house
of Maria Thins, whose realm this remains.

~ the 29th day of January in the Year of our Lord 1674

Johannes has taken to cajoling me again
to pose for a portrait which he swears will not
escape the confines of his closet cabinet. What fine
lock has the smith hammered up for its inset

I ask, engirdling his argument. Yet
I have thrice modeled for his scenes inspired by
Ter Borsch’s and de Hooch’s, and do not regret it
but for the long immobile hours in the precise

poses posited. My preference has been this:
to stand by an opened window reading a letter,
light ethereal on the glass and the ochre-hued walls,
the green and scarlet of drapes and rug, the yellow

of my bodice, sleeve, and a ripened pear—
each an opulence almost too brilliant to bear

~ the 7th day of April in the Year of our Lord 1674

Today my obdurate father, Reynier Bolnes,
travels the netherworld, his soul black as chimney
soot. Thus we rejoice, even as his body pulls us
toward the foul compass of his adulatory

grave. He was a wealthy brickmaker once
whose deceptive claim of love lured Moeder
into a marriage that befitted neither. Vloek cunt,
he reviled her, and beat her, citing the author

of her pain as her very own tongue. She lay
with him at least thrice, as evidenced by my sister
Cornelia, myself, and Willem, who, overswayed
by his tyranny, began to emulate him. Bitter

and belligerent, Moeder recanted her troth
and, remunerated, freed herself from them both.

~ the 1st day of June in the Year of our Lord 1674

I am heavy now with child—the fifteenth
God has given us…. He has also, however,
taken back four in the flush of their infancies.
Yet I choose to trust that this son or daughter

may reach, and exceed, the age of majority.
Our eldest, Maria, having come to it, will marry
this month her own Johannes, a commonality
her father and brother often jape, merry

at the supper table, their heads bobbing
like two poppets whenever she utters his name.
In a final fitting of nuptial apparel, she models
today her green brocade shoes and a flame—

blue gown as her father and brother idle,
their mouths agape and their drollery bridled.

~ the 12th day of July in the Year of our Lord 1674

The child within my womb has grown apace
with our prognostications of its birth. Near dawn,
in a mock preacherly voice, Johannes proclaims
this one will surely depart today its long

habitation in the darkness for the glitter
of the world. Let it stay havened for now, I prate,
for the hour is far too early and the light too brittle
to bear
. He does not see how my strength

is sapped. Still, he has agreed the child
should be our last, though it is I who must render
it so. Dear Moeder, despite her piety, compiles
for me a list of pessaries and other barriers

in lieu of abstinence: mints and rue and pepper,
and potions of sage, laurel, savin, and juniper.

~ the 8th day of August in the Year of our Lord 1674

From the first moment of his quickening
and ensoulment, our new babe has previewed
his gross discomfort at his confinement, riding
at once both lower and more often askew

than the others. Still, he appears to prosper
this morn, two weeks after birth, his countenance
a pink, less disingenuous version of his father’s.
The Jesuits, agog, argue that our Mees’s

aping of Johannes is Nature’s mimicry,
but, I counter, each child seems a facsimile
of God’s perfection, and a whit of His puffery,
and what fool would deny such a legacy.

Soon, Mees’s soul shall be scoured of sin
and, if Death claims him, so shall the cherubim.

~ the 23rd day of August in the Year of our Lord 1674

It is clear Johannes’s masterwork, at last
refashioned, ensorcells all those who view it.
Yet he has refused to offer it to any of them, least
of all Pieter van Ruijven who, without respite,

hectors to purchase it. I, too, am beguiled,
though I know well the device that conjured it,
his camera obscura whose glassy eye wiles
a narcotic sort of aura, the Turkey carpet

jeweled with lapis luster, while Clio, Muse
of History, glisters in her silk cerulean gown.
But it is Johannes in the midground who undoes
Moeder, his feet spread wide on the scene’s

marble floor, his back bent toward transcendence,
proving again the merit of her munificence.

~ the 14th day of September in the Year of our Lord 1674

Last eve, in the writhen light of a lantern,
I first perceived disquiet in Johannes’s gaze,
followed by the quicksilver of tears as he turned
wordlessly away. Only later did he raise

the threat of his insolvency, as though I
had not already deduced it. Long his broker,
Moeder has at last procured the means to supply
him time enough to work anew his Lacemaker

who even now, half-past the mid-morn hour,
awaits his brush. I tell him as much, even as he
whispers, ever more luring, of the rose-red yarns
of radiant silk he will paint cascading deftly

from my pillow box. His breath at my ear
lulls me not, driven less by charm than fear.

~ the 4th day of October in the Year of our Lord 1674

Daily, as our debt again continues to grow,
I bite my tongue, for clearly what lurks inside
Johannes’s pride is pain. Some men, I allow,
turn pain outward toward others until it,

like blood, profuses, while Johannes bears it
lightly as a kind of bravado, a necessary penance
for a world filled with splendor. Today, he insists
he will seek a loan for the cost of his service

in the Civic Guard, the fees for the uniform
and long pike demanded by his Orange Squadron
greatly exceeding the tax relief he has sworn
would be a fair recompense duly won.

Soon, he must plead our need to Romboutsz,
the silk merchant, or we shall all go without.

~ the 15th day of October in the Year of our Lord 1674

For nearly a week, absent her stolid cast,
Moeder has spoken of little else but my sister
Cornelia’s death, now thirty-one autumns past.
Her misery chastens the children who muster

depths I have not seen before as they copy
our simple kindnesses—linen compresses chilled
in the well to cool her brow, and almond koekies,
sugared and warm from Noortje’s oven. Still,

her melancholy hounds the very air about
her, her labored exhalations a cloud that shrouds
the barber’s diagnostic looking glass. What great
succor it is, then, to find Johannes bounding

up the stairs to her chamber, vivified and agile,
a thousand guilders bursting from his satchel.

~ the 5th day of December in the Year of our Lord 1674

Here in the very core of Papist’s Corner
we prepare ourselves once more for the Feast
of St. Nicholas while news of Sinterklaas stirs
the children to a dithery pitch. Little beasts,

Johannes murmurs, imitating their elation
while belying his own. The older ones discern
plainly that Sinterklaas and his pale horse run
the straat only in dreams. Yet, they yearn,

like us, to believe in his old pious witchery.
This is the wealth that awaits them all: waffle
cakes, diamond-shaped sugar loaves, a sheaf
of gingered bread, spinning tops, and dolls—

more than enough to fill their covetous hearts
and their shoes and stockings laid by the hearth.

~ the 19th day of March in the Year of our Lord 1675

It has been too long since last I wrote
my notions herewith. One by one the children
have been afflicted by an ague of such mordant
ferocity it exhausts our efforts to soothe them.

Yet Mees, not even a year old and a suckling
still, manages to elude its grip, a bantling as rosy
and plump as we have known. He is a lustering
, Moeder crows, and fusses over

him without surcease. She is herself
again, though her constitution appears less sturdy.
Her namesake, Maria, has come back to us as well
to mollify and distract even the surliest

of her sisters, having left behind her easel
and her own light-filled, north-facing counsel.

~ the 11th day of August in the Year of our Lord 1675

Once more having depleted his supply
of lapis lazuli, Johannes now humbles himself
before Moeder to inveigle her support. By
and by she softens, but will not tell him

that she, too, lacks sufficient funds
and he must therefore seek them elsewhere.
It is left, then, to me to suggest a likelier source
since he will never freely forgo his rarest

of pigments deep oceanic-blue underlay
that purples and glosses the red ground of a gown
or flares lavishly on a fringed window shade.
Soon, he shall put aside his pride again,

and, a tempered man, test van Ruijven’s frost,
though, as always, at some insufferable cost.

~ the 8th day of November in the Year of our Lord 1675

Johannes resides tonight in the fine house
of woolen merchant Niels Hamel in Amsterdam,
acting as proxy for Moeder whose recurrent bout
of dropsy is unabated. Thence, swifter than

a monkey pilfering coins from a customer’s
palm the little ones have turned sour and irksome,
interrupting Moeder’s sleep by asking her over
and over, When is vader coming home?

Only after he accomplishes grootmoeder’s
, I say. They are far too young to grapple
with this, or glean that the art of lender and payer
which he executes with the likes of Hamel

he does for them, for their blush and brass,
to put meat on the table and milk in the glass.

~ the 29th day of December in the Year of our Lord 1675

I am bereft, and the children inconsolable,
each moment more frayed than the last. Within
this hour a fortnight ago, Johannes, in the full
bloom of a frenzy, was swept unforgiven

into the afterlife. His body, which no holy
oil anointed near death, persists in haunting
every corner of the house, even as our Maria,
come to comfort us, remains an unfaltering

ally against despair. Moeder, dismayed,
attends to matters of money after being shown
proof that Johannes secured funds in her name
to secretly purchase a pond of lapis stones.

We must sell them, and soon, she tells me,
and I, lacking the fervor for argument, agree.

~ the 24th day of February in the Year of our Lord 1676

In order to pay my creditors I am forced
to market Johannes’s homely scenes and tronies,
his cloak and boots, his canvases, easels, palettes,
but have vowed to keep, even in bankruptcy,

The Art of Painting and transfer it to Moeder
for her fulfillment of our every need—such small
requital for her pocket’s past losses and future
depletion. Hereafter, whatever ills befall

her, myself, or my minor children, today
the High Court’s ruling fortifies us by forgiving
a portion of Johannes’s debt. Her fears unallayed,
Moeder persists in mulling lurid imaginings

of the life ahead—its torque and scope—
whereas I yet mull its measure of hope.

~ the 18th day of March in the Year of our Lord 1676

The children and I continue to dwell here
with Moeder on the Oude Langendijk, each of us
lessened by Johannes’s death, our lives as drear
without him as the graven light that suffuses

the leaded panes of glass inside my chamber
window. As I write these words, anguish sears
even as remembrance summons up a muscular
joy: Johannes and I unclad in the sheer

moonshine of a tulip field, Johannes and I
at play at his beloved chessboard as we sit abed,
his fingers tattooed in tints of weld and azurite,
his scent ripe and unsweetened, his head

lolling against my shoulder as he erupts
in laughter only the rush of love can disrupt.


Myrna Stone is the author of five books of poems, the most recent being Luz Bones, released by Etruscan Press in 2017. A two-time Ohioana Book Award Finalist, and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in nine anthologies and in over fifty journals including Poetry, Southwest Review, The Massachusetts Review, Boulevard, Nimrod, and River Styx. Among her other awards are three Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards, a full fellowship to Vermont Studio Center, the 2001 Ohio Poet of the Year award, the 2002 Poetry Award from Weber: The Contemporary West, and the 2017 New Letters Prize in Poetry. Stone is a founding member of The Greenville Poets, based in Greenville, Ohio.


Hilary Biehl
Judith Grey
Mureall Hebert
Jen Karetnick
E. R. Lutken
Marjorie Maddox
Diane Lee Moomey
Samantha Pious
Barbara Sabol
Wendy Sloan
Myrna Stone
J. C. Todd
Paulette Turco
Elaine Wilburt
Joyce Wilson


This issue of Mezzo Cammin is also dedicated to its Founder and Managing Editor for 15 years, Dr. Kim Bridgford (1959-2020). [Photo: Marion Ettinger].

The 2021 Poetry by the Sea conference was canceled due to COVID-19. The next conference is planned for May 24-27 2022.

Nicole Michaud: Throughout history, both women and fruit have been popular and enduring subjects for paintings. Women are referred to as the earth in which man plants a formed seed, distancing women from their capacity as creator. Rather, women engaging in procreation utilize the male 'pollen' to create and grow the embryonic seed of future generations.

From the Nariphon of Buddhist mythology (literal fruits shaped as women's bodies and absent bones) growing from the Makkaliphon tree, to the pomegranate of Greek mythology and the apple (or fig) of Judeo-Christian writings, women and fruit have been inextricably linked for millennia. Fruit is the basis of the temptation and fall from grace of Adam and Eve in the Bible, and serves as a treacherous precursor to conflict in mythologies such as the Greek golden apple's role in beginning the Trojan War. Women's bodies and body parts are often compared to apples, pears, melons, lemons, and other fruit. This association and dehumanization of women has facilitated an enduring mistreatment, ownership, and underestimation of capacity.

Inside, transformations are happening.

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