Sharon Cramer




These poems are from a group of poems called "The Helga Series," 
originating from the Helga paintings of Andrew Wyeth.



Like a sickening smell in a locked-up house is everywhere the minute you open the door

“Open all the windows”

“Open the door”

“I can’t stand this smell”

“What is it?”

Your doubts surround me


“Why were you out there so long?”

“What are you working on?”

“How are you doing on that portrait?  You promised it for next month.”

You are worried

that I have lost it

that I can’t paint anymore

that I am sitting out there

that I am

thinking about what to do

and doing nothing


Nothing could be further from the truth
but I am unable to tell you

about Helga

today, she was asleep

in the sunlight

and the sun on her skin

I think I captured it

but I know that

nothing human ever could


I’ve never touched her – wanted to touch her

Just capture her

with clothes

without clothes


in that green coat

in the woods

in the house

for a moment

knowing she can never be captured

by me

or anyone else


Like the smell makes you want

to rush outside and gulp fresh air
your suspicions follow me everywhere

while I rinse my brushes

while I stretch my canvases

while I create my log of

what I painted


how long it took


Airing out the house takes time

Repairing your trust will take time

We are laughing and loving

but (just like the smell when you open a forgotten closet)

you are watching me


There’s nothing to see

but you keep watching


I’ll tell you about her


I’m just not ready yet


Helga’s Song


I dream

            he is watching me

I dream

            the green Loden coat goes up in flames

I dream

            I am standing outside against a tree and I will never be warm again


I knew what I was doing

when we started

but 233 pictures later

all blurs into just this

            he is watching me

            I like it

© 2011 Sharon Cramer



Sharon Cramer, Ph.D., a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at Buffalo State College, was an academic leader and scholar for 26 years before returning to poetry. She is the author of three scholarly books and 25 articles. Dr. Cramer has given over 100 presentations and keynotes in 23 states and two provinces in Canada. She completed her Ph.D. studies at New York University, earned an M.A.T. degree from Harvard University, and a B. A. from Tufts University.