On North Haven Island
Portrait of Elizabeth, 1901, by Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951); Maine
Here at our summer home the day is fine.
The salty air’s awash in light that she
reflects as she reflects on turning nine.
My daughter stands in sweet gentility,
her linen blouse with collar starched and bright,
in white to match the shining bow that ties
her honey hair. She makes a charming sight,
though shadow falls across her face. She sighs
and drops a pensive gaze on down our hill
to somewhere out beyond the lapping shore.
Do nascent hopes and aspirations fill
her head? Or are there fears she can’t ignore?
As she grows up this century, I pray
the world will be as peaceful as this day.
Francis O. Watts with Bird, 1805, by John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1854); Maine
Francis Watts’s parents were distraught.
From scarlet fever, both their daughters perished.
A portrait of their son, age three, was sought
from me, a neighbor, who knew how they cherished
their remaining sprout. In slippered feet
and lacy gown, the healthy lad stood still
for me to paint him. Later I’d complete
the eerie trees, the twilit empty hills,
the bird he’s holding tied up on a string.
That string’s a symbol of mortality:
when he who grips it dies, the bird takes wing,
slips its tether–as mortal souls fly free.
Francis does not know the string is frail;
for now, he keeps his trilling nightingale.
.Barbara Lydecker Crane, a Rattle Poetry Prize finalist in 2017 and 2019, has two Pushcart nominations and several sonnet contest awards. She has published three chapbooks: Zero Gravitas, Alphabetricks, and BackWords Logic. Her poems have appeared in Able Muse, Ekphrastic Review, First Things, Light, Measure, Think, Writer’s Almanac, and many others. She lives near Boston and is also an artist.