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     One poised his camera as if it were
     A lab pipette and he meant to draw up
     A dropper’s worth of what he saw,
     Dilute it, or distill his drop of day
     Into its spirit, spectral photograph.
     Another tipped the photo like a drink
     And showed the subject his result as if
     He were a dealer flipping up a card.
     A third man stapled down events
     With shutter clicks, his noted moments pinned
     In place like ribbons thumbtacked to a wall.

     So – nervously pinned up, invite them in:
     Our former lovers, braided into days
     That are cut off. A camera’s click divides
     The present from the past as neatly as
     A guillotine. Good cameras can slice
     Cross sections of the past so wafer-thin
     They have no depth at all.
     So we can hold the light that left
     Our younger selves in microscope, or peer
     At laughing faces of the dead and pay
     Them over like a rosary till chant
     Replaces memory with photograph.
     We serve warm afternoons on later days
     Arranged as cold cuts, flesh that’s lost its force.

     Je suis ici en lieu d’ami: a snap
     That’s held in phones like lockets: we recall
     The loved in icons, worshiping with sight
     When touch is barred by distance or by fall
     Of days made hostile by the loss of right
     To love with hands and mouth. The eye adapts.

     What’s in the sealed
     And stiffened gold of lockets? Open they
     Show only what is missing: absent friends
     In pasted miniature. But closed they hold
     All cheerful commerce secret as a seed.

     A seed’s a letter sealed. A medium that feeds
     A bottled message. So colonies of letters sprout
     Say nothing but themselves.

     A long tooth against a white blurred sky
     Cars skid over a river bed of pressed pebbles.

     Wounds plane us. Tempers flake away and curl
     In shavings of cross words left on the floor.
     The speech of others bandies us about
     Like shuttlecocks, or fallen leaves,
     Now up, now down
     Sometimes at pleasure.
     Our seal is broken. Some of inside’s out
     And outside’s in.

     I mark dead leaves lit up like frosted glass.
     A star of grasses bristles from a cleft
     Near loose calligraphy from spilled paint.
     Trees stretch their stems through fences in a lot –
     A link or two is buried in the wood.

     The floor is grey and wrinkled like the hide
     Of elephants. The light is grim
     As night school. So the birds
     And beetle wings are drab and matte as ink –
     Red ink, long dried, estranged and under glass.
     The floor is graphed by inlaid copper. Pressed
     Linoleum in squares to skid across
     And leave boot scuffs as faint as pencil marks.

     Hands drape black ink
     Across the page like bunting.