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.