from Artists’ Models
1. The Helga Pictures
Helga Testorf and Andrew Wyeth
It was difficult at first, to take off my clothes.
In time, it grew easier. We were neighbors
you see, but no one knew about
the paintings save Andrew and me.
He was a great admirer of my pale skin
and blonde braids, but it was never about sex.
He touched a knee or an elbow
with the tip of his paintbrush when he wanted
me to turn this direction or that—
nothing more. Still, I spent hours
of my life with him, cast all modesty aside.
I did whatever Wyeth wanted—
lying down, sitting up—indoors, outdoors,
posing hour after hour in every sort of light.
It was freeing, giving myself this way to a man
who studied my face
and figure like a scholar reads his books.
Of course I cared for him. Why else
would I have done it? But most of all, I loved
what he saw when he looked
at me—how every painting was different,
as if hundreds of Helgas shared the same body,
and only Wyeth could see them.
~ Terri Kirby Erickson
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of four collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in the Asheville Poetry Review, storySouth, The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, Connotation Press, and many others. Awards include the Joy Harjo Prize for Poetry, the Nazim Hikmet Award, and a Nautilus Book Award.