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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 5 2000 10:00 PM


When I picture 1940 everyone poses
for me, as though I had the one


camera in the world. I cannot distract them
from their studied, ghoulish jolliness.

My grandmother is posing, yelling "smile"
and my grandfather is horsing around

with a tire, making his biceps big. I
can't know the past, because the past

keeps arranging itself before my lens. People
call out Here, and Over Here, striking

their prewar, rural easygoing stances.
That night, when I try again, everyone

is indoors, in parlors, reading quietly.
A woman rocking in and out of lamplight

studies me. The neighbor's
middle child died this afternoon.

Dan Chiasson's poems appear in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.