Opening the Windows

by Susan Utting

after Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior 1909

June, and the ceremony begins. The catch
on a bedroom frame is first – unlocked,
the handle lifted, stiffened hinge eased
to a different angle.

The hairs on her bare arms stir themselves
a little, do not quite rise – there is no thrill
here, simply air on unaccustomed skin.

‘Fresh’ is the word for outside air come in,
but she doesn’t use it – silence is her way,
breath her language. And so the slow
letting-in continues,

pane by pane, catch, handle, hinge, breath,
air that moves, felt along the blood, like a sip
of iced water, like snow after birchwood heat,

petals fallen on dry earth, their cool
restfulness after all that blowsy flowering.