Her White Dress

a painting of Celia Thaxter by Childe Hassam

Childe’s idea–portraits of my salon to represent my self–fascinating!
How his quick strokes echo my desire, plump arm chairs for unhurried
tete a tete, gold-rimmed vases brimming on hemstitched linen, the open
baby grand. Then pastel sketches of my island garden, I shimering
white dress at twilight, my gown luminous among Scotch roses
and crimson phlox, white among fiery poppies, light blossoming

in middle ground before a ruffled sky. Of sky, a mauve wash
of kittiwakes and loons, he caught a likeness. Now Childe frets,
moves his easel near cliffs breaching the waves, mixes fresh color,
how to paint the rote, that constant soughing on the rugged shore,
how to show the sea’s voice–and not just the sea’s. From away,
Child must learn to hear the notes below gulls’ keening and cold

froth against bedrock, the chord under clamoring years, below patina
or personage of white frock and shawl, continuo of granite tide and time.
Here I am Celiq, Mother’s skellig girl of Shoals. Here each island sounds
a signature tone one may steer by. The native ear is a keen fog auger.
“Hog Island’s crying,” they report from Star of the tree lorn rock renamed