The Last Person Made Famous by a Painting

by Chelsea Kerwin

after The Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth

A sharply angled breeze slides a maple leaf through the window.
Noon in Pennsylvania. Helga naked in the barn.

She seems at ease, undressed, partly illuminated.
Did he fiddle with brushes and drape her ruddy braids,

just so? It is about love. The sort of love
that wants to know the soul trapped in the shadow

cast by wooden muntin bars, dividing her body
into dark and light. She faces the unlit room,

in profile, and beneath the edge of her wide mouth
a handful of sunlight cups her left jaw, spills

and pools in her collarbone, trickles down her arm.
Her ankles are crossed and tucked under the stool,

it is all so casual, and mysterious. As if the sun 
earned her nakedness in a contest with the wind.

It is about love. Stare at the painting too long
and your neck begins to ache in sympathy. 

Still, she turns away, lounges on the rigid, puritan stool. 
The leaf stares at her in astonishment.

Outside the barn, the stark landscape presses its face
and cold hands to the glass. The light continues to exhale,

releasing a sigh so warm and soft it does not feel like sorrow.
Though it reaches at such lengths, and cannot hold her. 















Chelsea Kerwin earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University and won two Devine Fellowships while completing a poetry thesis. She resides in Baltimore with her partner and their owner, a Siberian husky named Ares. She has been published in The Madison Review, The Tulane Review, Contrary, and Hobart.