This week’s poem is inspired by an Andrew Wyeth painting. Like any good ekphrastic poem, you don’t need to see the painting in order to understand the poem, though it helps if you do. The painting is in the collection at the Portland Museum of Art, and you can look it up online.

In this case, more than anything else, the poem takes off from the mood of the painting, which portrays a fireplace and bench in a dingy room in an old house in Maine. The poet shows us a few images from that room while also turning the camera around to link the scene outside with the scene inside.

Jeffrey Thomson is a professor at the University of Maine at Farmington and the author of multiple books including, most recently, “The Belfast Notebooks” and “fragile,” a memoir.

Maine Room

By Jeffrey Thomson

– Andrew Wyeth, watercolor and graphite on paper


It’s the late light that gouges

at the heart, really. November’s end

and the leaves down. Birch trunks

and the calligraphy of shade.

Cold light, clean light. In a square

of it, wooden plovers on the mantle


preen in a room so Spartan

it could be being punished for

something, the way the woods

in winter are punished with snow

in a thin light that warms nothing,

the way the wind channels down


through the gaps in the mountains

and finds the hearth of the sea

cold and dark in some room

abandoned somewhere and empty.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 Jeffrey Thomson. It appeared originally in The Lark, volume 1, issue 2, 2017, and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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