Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc.

Through its striking images and strangled syntax, this week’s poem reminds us of the haunting and violence that can lie near the act of artistic creation.

Julie Poitras Santos’s recent writing has appeared in The Chart, Glint, The New Guard, The Café Review, La Fovea and the Word Portland Anthology. She is also an artist, and her visual work has been exhibited widely in the U.S. and Europe. She lives in Portland and teaches at Maine College of Art.

The Artist

By Julie Poitras Santos

Milk flowed from the artist’s mouth at breakfast as he stuttered on

about ghosts and wordless sounds within the tower room.

The former pigeon roost from which were carried secret words in

tiny capsules tied

with ribbon to the ridges of their brittle limbs.

The fire started in the hearth

he bobbed his head he tried to make it work.

The war years were the news.

The pressure on his body. The pressure in his ears.

He painted darkened landscapes of a far-off Irish town with dried

up paint and crusty brushes

out of focus as if working hard to see them might bring him nearer

home.

Evenings heard him howl.

We offered him another room but he refused suspicious of our

uncertain charms.

One night at dusk I walked out past the woodpile and he startled

me

hovered there

with sharpened ax suspended from his swinging arms.

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 Julie Poitras Santos. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to www.pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.