The Artist Has Laid Down His Brush and is Done
for Betsy Wyeth (after "The Conch Shell")
The same curtains blowing at the window, the same
wallpaper, but peeling a bit now, faded and water-stained.
The conch shell, empty as his chair, blows the same sea across
the cove of your ear as you lift it to your head like before.
Bring home the gulls to your roof with a long low whistle
from the conch, bring neighbors with casseroles, bring
the dog from his lapping the melt of ice in the dooryard.
Bring your same fingers to draw the curtains aside.
Step through each room, their creaking floors like old bones
careful and slow. Watch the leaves of his sketchbook ruffle
in the breath of the open window as if he's thumbing
them, deciding which drawing or sketch wants paint today.
The same scenes are never to be the same without his careful eye.
The conch will go silent, the chair unmoved and dusty.
Somehow a shaft of sudden sun slanting the floor won't be
the same kind of light as he saw. Even the dog will not snore the same.
People will call and ask of you now that the artist has laid down
his brush and is done. You won't answer because you are not the same
as you were just yesterday. They will ask for some small memory
of your time with him and you will say the wallpaper holds all his secrets.