Christina's World

Poem by Valerie Lawson

                Of course, she’s an old cripple, for Pete’s sake!

                                                Andrew Wyeth

 

He saw her scuttle crabwise

across the field beyond the lawn.

Thin arms prop and propel; a bundle of sticks

dragging a kit bag on an exposed hillside—

 

but for the pink dress, the hip curve,

the compass needle of unruly hair

pointing to the cove beyond

the elliptical runway of the rutted road.

 

She wore down hard New England acres

with her passage from spinster farmhouse

to bachelor barn. It took an awareness

to lift her from the grass, to see her

 

for what she was. He learned this

from his father, would pass it on

to his son.  Once he saw one,

he found them everywhere.

 

Here in Maine, tides swap land and sea,

Aputamkon and selkie appear

 in hidden pockets  along its craggy coastline.

To find them, you must first look away.

 

In the patient tempera hours models

let down their guard. He did everything

he could to keep them from singing

as he painted. The scuba girl, his wife

 

on that blueberry afternoon before the storm,

the sentinel dog a distraction—how could one

intrude and belong? He keeps their secrets,

reveals almost enough to satisfy as they shift

 

back and forth. Privilege granted in that moment

just before or after,  perfect light captures

as they emerge without scaffolding, shimmering

spiral uncoiling. How on earth, indeed.