Category Archives: Poetry


I have been thinking of an artist friend of mine who passed away almost 12 years ago. Shirley Wright lived on Lopez Island in Puget Sound in a huge rambling building that housed Grayling Gallery, three sets of living quarters, two painting studios, a wood shop, a ceramic studio, a photography darkroom, and a large roofed courtyard.

Shirley was an excellent painter. She gardened and loved to paint flowers, but her finest work was her figurative series of women. Those paintings are simply amazing in their qualities of light and color.

The most memorable painting in that series was of an old lady sitting on a chair holding her purse. The chair had pink wings and was ascending to heaven. In startling contrast was a beautiful nude young woman with flaming red hair ascending alongside the little old lady. Shirley always said inside every old woman was the young woman she used to be.

Shirley had emphysema from years of smoking and died earlier than her strong family genetics might have otherwise allowed. Until we moved to Montana I used to go start her wood stove in the morning so that she would not endanger herself with the oxygen tank near the fire.

One cold winter night she called to say her time had come and she was dying. We were the last ones to speak with her. I was restless and could not sleep, so around 2 a.m. I wrote the following poem.

Great Hall of Art
Stands in silent momory,
A cathedral of dreams
Made manifest.
Empty rooms hold
Uncanny absence,
The owner away.
Moonlight slides gently
Deep shadows of trees
Touch the sleeping garden.

The artist,
Caught between times,
Struggles afar,
Battlefield of body,
Once in delighted dance,
Lies entangled,
Pathways of fear
Too well traveled
To endure long.
Spirit seeks
A welcome conclusion,
Rebirth in a new world.
The body falters,
Layers of cells
Falling away.
Leaves in decay.

Spirit aims
With steady hand,
Poised for flight
Into unknown stars
Where paintings are born.

And yet, pauses,
Just a moment,
A wave of emotion
Engulfs every beloved
Touch of home.
No easy passage
To a world unseen
When the old
Lies so familiar,
So near, so dear.

Spirit stands patient,
Allowing time
To embrace home,
The hearts who remain,
Sad solemn leavetaking.

Until, at last,
Miraculous note of joy
Rises to the stars,
A flying chair
Gone from our midst.

This post appears in the Carnival of Truth.

Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2008. All Rights Reserved.