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O'Keeffe, Days in a Life

Author Introduction

O’Keeffe answered my letter. I first visited her one day in August, 1973. She hired me to work on weekends as librarian, secretary, cook, nurse, or companion from 1973 to 1979. This poetry is from my journals written a few hours after the experiences.

O’Keeffe did not like poetry. However, she would listen to Witter Bynner’s translations of Chinese poets in Jade Mountain. O’Keeffe often had me read aloud to her from biographies of the great. Many times we re-read an ancient Taoist text Secret of the Golden Flower.

O’Keeffe taught me to cook. She taught me to look, really look, at things. She showed me how to live. She let me know her when she faced old age, blindness, and death in the last years of her life.

O’Keeffe must be remembered. She was a woman of fierce temper, infinite kindness, and impeccable sense of artistry. She encouraged me and changed my life.

I like to think of her walking in beauty beneath ancient cliffs at Ghost Ranch. This work is thanks for the strength of her will and the spirit of her work.

C.S. Merrill
September, 1995

Poem 58


This afternoon we found

one unconscious hummingbird

had battered itself against

the studio window, took it

to the kitchen, made sugar water

carried it to the garden

it sipped and perked up alive

iridescent blue green chin

whirred off suddenly up.


May, 1976