POEM – Christina’s World

by Brent Short on October 18, 2013


For Andrew Wyeth’s painting of Christina Olson, who, although undiagnosed, most likely suffered from polio.


Christina panning up at that vast rise—
bleak, weathered buildings delineated
by a flinty sky, from the edge of
a sea of brown grass and field rising,
a great divide, an ocean of sepia
bending forward. Lying twisted in
a perfect posture of longing and restraint,
reverie and struggle, a pause in her pull
back uphill, at a distance from that dreary
homestead, gazing nostalgically, carried
ahead by her magic memory of home,
just on the edge of expressing the
inexpressible and its sheer impossibility.

Darkness seeping through the whole
landscape, immense, the shadowing
behind every color, blade of grass,
strand of hair, swallowed by the ground,
penetrating the sky. The pink of her
dress in its reticence and triumph,
its stark simplicity, exploding against
the brown of the earth, suggesting what
might lie just beneath, familiar, but
unsettling, the weight of it, the shadow
that haunts the world; the play of light
and shadow falling against each other
on the rounded pinkness of that dress.

Looking over her shoulder, half-turned,
lying prone, twisted shoe akimbo, folded
legs, half-raised in the grass, riding the
breath of that wave, that particular fragility
and perseverance carrying back; what she
longs for, the desire and struggle for it,
a silence across all that wide open space,
and more empty space beyond, holding
her up, pressing her down; between far
off and freedom, inching forward, as if
it might just as easily extend on forever.
Isn’t it the truth that haunts us, that her
world, and ours, is sometimes pitiless?
And that her strange dark ride, the awe
and wonder of it, the shadowed emptiness,
is Christina’s image, her story, her world,
who and what she is.

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Brent Short

Brent Short lives outside Tampa and works at Saint Leo University as the Director of Library Services.  He’s been a contributor to Sojourners, Radix, Mars Hill Review and Inklings. His poetry has appeared in Eads Bridge Literary Review, Windhover, Tar River Poetry and Sandhill Review, and still holds up “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot as the towering achievements in modern poetry that the rest of us can only aspire to.


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