"On the Verandah (Ironbound Island, ME)" by John Singer Sargent, 1921

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She sat sewing on the verandah
not alone; in those days
a chaperone was present
at all stages of courtship,
from the early mating display
to the conquest.

She put down her needle
when she saw him standing there,
with one hand fanning her face
flushed from the heat of his stare
and the other, brushing away his attentions
as though they were flies.
But these were merely gestures
and his eyes, which she always maintained
were the bluest she’d ever seen,
won him first place on her list of suitors.

That is the day they met
and she stitched him into the hem of her dress
for the next fifty years.
When death asked to be her partner,
there was no mannerly courtship or chaperone present,
or time for her to unravel the thread
and leave some of his heart behind.

Now, the rustle of full white skirts
and the promise of always
have called my father home.

Copyright © Christine Magee • All rights reserved.
Selection from BEFORE THE RAINS COME—Family Matters
Painting: “On the Verandah (Ironbound Island, ME)” by John Singer Sargent, 1921.