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.

Alfred Corn's 10th book of poems, Tables, will be published this January. He spent the earlier part of this year as a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, working on a new version of Rilke's Duino Elegies.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.