"The Coloring Book" (2006)
When I was a girl who worked in watercolors,
both our two cats, Butterscotch and Tibby,
used to lap up paint water from the glass.
Then, emboldened, they would seek the source —
wet little hollow oblongs, orange, blue —
and avidly lick at those with their rough tongues.
One of the coloring books I liked to paint in
was called "Boys and Girls from Around the World."
Globalization had yet to be invented.
Girls in the Balkans wore embroidered aprons
when they were dressed up, or even every day.
There were no internet cafes, no cell phones.
There was barely television. So it's tempting
to retroactively bestow long hours
of tranquil silence, silence one might paint in,
on the aproned girl who was really more likely
hoeing turnips, tending the family's flock,
or stitching at her dowry — all the while
chatting with the other girls at the village fountain.
Special permission has been granted by the author for Design Observer to reprint this poem online. "The Coloring Book" was first published in the Times Literary Supplement, and is copyright © 2006 by Rachel Hadas.