Saltwater Faces

Laura Lee

(after a night in the galleries at The Art Institute of Chicago)

The Little Miss
wants dancing lessons
but my shoes give me  away--
my one laced dress
(from Mistress) looks fine
but barely covers
thin soled and scuffed shoes.

I will never be pink
like the Little Miss. 

My rough hands
hold her smooth hands;
she is all warm and smooth
and sweet.

After the dance lesson
she asks again:
The sea, Dorothea, the sea?
Can we see the boats?
Can we see the waves

Can you teach me to swim?

Can you teach me to sing? 


Maybe next holiday
(Mistress won’t care)
I’ll show the Little Miss
the sea, the waves, the boats
the empty whisky bottles

the sea-turned faces 
Pa so bent over
he is without a face.
Maybe I’ll let her
hear the wind howl songs.

But, Little Miss
I’d never learned to swim. 

Maybe I’ll show her
the life I left for her. 

After a night in the galleries at The Art Institute of Chicago, the people in the paintings began to visit each other. Laura Lee is a Chicago area poet, college instructor, and writer. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in print and online journals in the US, the UK, New Zealand, and Greece. Her website is at: Follow her on Twitter at: