by W.S. Di Piero

He put the spirit essence
the light pip not only
in each eye’s albumen
concentrate of starlight
but must have been taught
how to do that by first
finding it in the pearl
he posed then corrected
in dusty studio light
that pounced on the window
behind which sits the cheeky girl
pear- and apple-blossom cheeks
a fake description naturally
of their plain fleshiness
drably golden and her lips
from Haight Street’s darlings
nose studs jacket studs
girls with that kind of eye
one by the ATM machine
casual juicy and so fair
a Netherlandish type
panhandling strangers
pomegranate seed ball
bearings agleam in her nose
pearls not sea-harvested
but imagined seen put there
by a certain need and fancy
because love says it’s so
picture that picture this.

SOURCE: “Girl with Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer” appears in W.S. Di Piero‘s collection Skirts And Slacks: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), available at

IMAGE: “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer (1665).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, W.S. Di Piero has taught at Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, Di Piero was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2012. His  numerous poetry collections include Country of Survivors (1974),  The Dog Star (1990), Skirts and Slacks (2001), Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems (2007), and Nitro Nights (2011). Di Piero has also published a number of volumes of essays on literary and visual art, most recently When Can I See You Again: New Art Writings (2010). A translator of Italian poetry, Di Piero’s first translation, Giacomo Leopardi’s Pensieri (1981), was nominated for a National Book Award. He has won many honors and awards for his work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. He lives in San Francisco.