Ars Poetica – a Poem by Nora Hutton Shepard
Dear reader, are you here too?
looking with me at this room,
at that chair beneath the casement and a woman
entering from our left? She doesn’t see us,
sorting and choosing her woolen skeins. You see
her there: the basket’s wide oak slatted handle,
the colors spilling over, filling the rectangle of light
at her feet. She unrolls her stitchery, frames
the needlepoint mesh, and examines
the unfinished design. Her needle threaded,
she now begins to push and pull the colors through,
wools, silk floss, metallics knotted and snipped.
The colors build in blocks to peacock feathers,
unfurled ferns, an orange, filling in spaces
we might never have known
were empty. Her fingertips are reddened.
She’s kicked off her shoes: the toes
of her left foot curl and rub her right instep
shifting the tangle of threads around her feet.
The sweep of daylight moves from the basket
and she leans closer to her work of lines and leaves.
And do you see her needle pause above its stitch?
Now she balls her threads back into the basket
and gathers the unrolled half worked canvas.
Do you see the azure ocean stitched
so minutely? the sailing ships? shells,
little crabs in lapping woven silver waves,
all the cavorting whales she’s worked
into the border? She stretches and stands,
smoothing her skirt, slipping her feet into her shoes.
And we see her go. Don’t we? Her exit? We leave too.
But one day, we may catch a glimpse of silk, blue, in a certain slant of light,
a basket of threads, or a painted sea, and we may recall
a woman, dear reader, one we have never met.
(A version of this poem was printed in Walter Magazine, Raleigh, North Carolina)
Nora Hutton Shepard
Nora Hutton Shepard is a poet and alumna of N.C. State’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program, as well a graduate of the MFA Writer’s Program at Warren Wilson College. She taught poetry courses at N.C. State before relocating to Davidson in 2019 to be closer to her daughter’s family. Nora has quickly acclimated to life in Davidson and is a wonderful addition to our Community.