Geoffrey Brock

Weighing Light

Often the slightest gesture is most telling,

as when he reaches tenderly in passing

to pluck the yellow leaf from the dark fall


of her hair, or even the absence of all gesture:

the way she doesn’t need to turn to know

who, in this gathering of friends, has touched her.


It was as if he dreamed some private garden.

Perhaps he woke from it, mid-reach, to find

his hand too near her hair in this crowded yard,


and maybe even now she’s shuttering in

(she’s even better than you or I at that)

a storm of worry and recrimination—


did anyone notice? how could he do that here!—

by seamlessly continuing to tell you

about her trip to see her favorite Vermeer


this morning in the Delft show at the Met:

“So now they say she isn’t weighing pearls

or gold or anything—it’s just the light


gleaming off empty scales.” So much is hard

to know for sure. If I confronted her,

she’d say it was just a leaf—who could afford


to disagree? Could we? Now she’s explaining

how the girl faces a mirror we can’t see into

and how behind her hangs a gloomy painting


of the Last Judgment: “Over her head God

floats in a cloud,” she says, “like a thought balloon.”

But you don’t hear. You’re watching me. I nod.



“Weighing Light” first appeared in The New Criterion, Nov. 2004 (vol. 23, no. 3).