“Watercolors ” and “House Tour” are poems by Portland’s new poet laureate, Linda Aldrich.


You use blue sparingly because cerulean goes

fast with so much sky and then sky in ocean

in this muffled, soft-edged world –

grand sweep of water into water, your brush

spreading sand to a blur of faint color that dries

to almost nothing. I look to see if I can find us

walking a pale pulp of beach, expressive

arms, the way we need to talk above

the surge of rain stick sound sucked back

through stones, a graveled song of comfort.


If not on the beach, evanescent is the word

I wish for – luminous disappearance, how waves

hold turquoise deep within and give it up when

the sun goes down, but not forever, not for good,

though now you’ve left the sea to paint mountains –

you place yourself inside the farthest,

darkest green, where a clouded slope joins

the felted valley of the one behind it,

and I know you are fishing. Each day I hear you

drop a quiet line into my fear of losing you.


The French aquarelle lets vowels float away

on little loops of L, an unassuming softness for an art

that suffers no mistakes. What’s done is done, it says,

make sure you get it right the first time. Victorians

believed women handled loss better than men

because they could always tidy up the cupboard

or dust the teacups, but I’d sooner paint myself

in sepia of twilight, supple and permeable.

Wet on wet, I’d meld my way to where you last

were seen and find you by the river. Be your fish.



House Tour

No nearer, lest reality

          Should disenthrall thy soul.

E. Dickinson


Six thousand dollars, he says,

for two replica dresses made in England.

The dress you will see, the stay-at-home-

out-of-sight dress, not the dress


gone to Harvard, never to graduate

beyond private viewings. However,

for the price of a ticket, our feet

can go up the stairs to her room.


Hands to yourselves, please: this wool

shawl, her shawl, this sleigh bed, indeed.

her bed. Some sign of her then, perhaps

a bend of hip in mattress, a pen


scratch on the desk? Not really

her desk. Perhaps it will come back

someday. For now, this way.

Shined and perfect, rubbed clean


of her presence, hardwood sanded

below footprints, cabinet doors stuck

from too many layers, and the dress

she never wore, fresh as a corsage


in its plexiglass box, tiny pleats folded

white over white, buttons to the floor,

made to her measure. She was so small,

smaller than we thought, yet always


too much for us, dismayed to find

her gone before we had a chance.

Only the windows give us something:

square on square of pale winter sun,


old glass melting in and out of focus,

her grief contained to right angles

on the nursery of her nephew’s death,

the lawn too wide to cross.

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