War-Time Christmas, 1917
Canyon, Texas

 

“There is nothing here—
so maybe there is something wrong with me
that I am liking it so much.”

                                            —Georgia O’Keeffe

When Georgia saw the plains of Amarillo,
the expanse of sky and horizon
overtaking the land, she felt at home
in an ocean of open space.

Her young eyes settled on stars,
canyons, barns, and herself,
emotions flowing in swirls,
the unknown known by design.

She was happy even with nothing there,
liked by her students, a good teacher
given the conditions of a poor school
twenty miles from nowhere.

Until she took issue with the local drug store
where the owner decided to sell
Christmas cards expressing the virtues
of bombing Germany off the map.

She objected that the sentiment
seemed less than Christian.
Reports of her leanings spread.
Besides she never attended church.

She had no room to complain
what was or was not Christian,
American, normal, patriotic.
Her love of the land deepened.

 

Note on the Poem from Audell: I spent the summer of 2010 south of Tucson writing poetry, reading about the desert, and studying the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. Despite having lived north of Palo Duro Canyon for most of my childhood, I did not discover O’Keeffe until I fell in love as an adult with the light in New Mexico and the heat in the Sonoran desert. This particular poem stems from one of O’Keeffe’s experiences as a young art teacher in Canyon, Texas, during World War I.