Portrait of Sherwood Anderson at Ripshin Farm, Doris Ulmann, 1928

Lisa Beech Hartz Click to

Lisa Beech Hartz directs Seven Cities Writers Project, bringing creative writing to underserved communities. She guides a workshop in a city jail and a memoir workshop of the Jim Crow Era. Her poems appear in Crazyhorse, Poet Lore, Redivider and elsewhere. “Portrait of Sherwood Anderson” is drawn from a collection exploring the life and work of photographer Doris Ulmann.

This? he says trying on a pose. The homeowner.
Gentleman farmer. How about this?

But he keeps looking at me. His petra
eyes. Mmm, I say. And wait.

Beyond me his blue hills.
Is this the house the book paid for?

I ask. He smiles. Runs a palm along his thigh.
Solid. This wife, Elizabeth,

shadows, leans. Circles.
The way he says her name.

A whisper. When will he know,
and when will she?

His gaze fixed on the middle distance.
He doesn’t belong here anymore.

She hovers, suspended just inside my sightline.
Like me she is lean and dark and useful.

A scaffolding. He taps; he hums.
I wait for him to settle in to himself. The stones

behind him restless, fitted together
with a kind of insistence. She offers

coffee. She offers cigarettes. I ask
about the book. How it was made. The flash

in his eyes. Mica glints in the stone. The craftsmen
out here, he says. Bold. Marvelous.

He asks about my hands. Scarred, calloused.
Burned. Art, I laugh, the price of art.

He can’t tell me where his stories
come from. They come.

There, I say. Hold.
He’s looked away.

Is she there, Elizabeth, over my shoulder?
One plate. Two. The chosen tie,

mossgreen, askew. The buttons
underneath. The squint. In the direction

of his cool sun. The one
he’ll follow away from her.