Blue Shift: Portrait of the Poet as a Young Girl

Betsey Houghton

So sternly presented by her parents – a navy dress
with silver buttons, like an officer’s uniform,

and hair cut blunt. Yet look at the face
of this four-year-old, the light the artist has found.

Her blue gaze is absolutely clear, though not
looking back at him. Her glance is to the side.

And he paints her mouth thin as the Mona Lisa’s,
but amusement escapes at the corners.

If one cheek seems rounder, pinker than the other,
it’s the artist’s recognition of that odd

moment divided three ways, among painter,
the painted, and some other who is always

outside the painting. Who is it? Who captures
that gaze caught by the artist? Plump eyelids

defend against telling – they’re the softest
ramparts behind which some irony (is it?) lurks.

Betsey Houghton’s work has appeared in various journals, including Edge City Review, Sanctuary, The Lyric and The MacGuffin where she was a prize winner in The MacGuffin’s 2002 National Poet Hunt. As “just another pilgrim…,” she lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts.