Photography

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 29 2001 12:10 PM

Photography

Listen to poem audio here.

Who would deal events an instant silence,
rethinking them in black and white and gray?
The eye that says, "Hold still," while awe exempts
[one smaller, straight-edged quadrant of a site]
from the mudslide attrition of day-by-day.

A click's enough to frame a face, a body
[the psyche coaxed outside to show herself],
pausing for a breath that, living still,
vision inhales each time I identify—
or do so with—her mime in monochrome.

*

Photographer, gleaner of epiphanies:

Sepia angle of a Pyramid
egypting the nineteenth-century background,
[one camel's heavy-lidded trance under sawtooth palms].

*

On the propylaeum steps, beneath a scarred Ionic column,
[two stoic guides, crouched, hugging their knees]
sit tight for the exposure and the duration.

*

[A phaeton stopping at the Place de l'Opéra.]
[Crowds surging across the London Bridge.]

*

[Niagara's marble avalanche.]
[Apache chief, wincing at the flash.]
[Confederate grays, bearded troops now dead in perpetuity.]
[Locomotive charting a westward course under frozen coal-smoke.]
[Yosemite and its surveyor.]

*

[Line without end,
immigration at Ellis Island],
applicants whose first lives have reached
a terminal, praying the prayers for resurrection
won't be rubber-stamped DENIED.

*

Then from our own wrecked century, reportage
feeding the magazines to make them lifelike:
[Depression.] [Popular Front.] [A dictator in mid-air.]
Documents heaped up, stacked like cords of wood,
like the dead [charnel that just missed incineration],
dispersion in silver billows of anonymity …
[The bomb.] [Famine.] [Nightstick marrying a temple.]

*

And all across the latter decades, backyards native
to Atlanta and Portland, Topeka and Eureka, feature
[Mom in Bermudas, Dad at the grill, kids with their fads].
[The wedding], [the christening], restaged after the event—
one, two, three, snap!—in a more perfect perfection.
Sweet album, be it ever so humble, there's no place like.

*

Photographer, record yourself in a time-lapse shot:

[Your body backed by the Pyramids.]
[Your face smiling from the Acropolis.]
[You, a stroller on London Bridge.]
[You, silhouetted against the white noise of Niagara.]
[You and yours on the ferry to Ellis Island.]

*

Each negative went down into baptismal darkrooms,
first nocturnity rinsed away to resurface in white
and fine-grained shades of blackened silver. All that tech
can save, arcades, statues, rainforests, icebergs, skylines,
movie stills, road signs, what we have been, what lived,
trivial or grand: our treasure and out of reach, springs
long gone, whose available sun will never set.

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