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