Framing, you crouched, focused, captured, shot,
I watched you where I stood, your movements slow,
measured. Sparring with the light, you hoped
to hold the thing, to catch the proper angle,
came back along the path where arches rose
and sunlight burned my face. We walked a while,
then stopped again for ten or fifteen minutes.
Patient, I’d learned it takes a lot of time,
confining bits of world within squares.
At home, we relived Arches by the window,
holding each slide up to see the image.
“Look,” we said, “this one’s really good,”
and passed them back and forth across the table,
the cat meowing at our feet, and you,
annoyed. “Shut up!” you yelled, and grabbed for her.
I loved the colors of those slides, the orange--
pink of rock, rising from the sand,
the one of us standing by a bush,
your arm around my waist, your silly grin.
In albums of your many trips and visits,
there’s more of me than you. Waist-deep in leaves,
I wave, or showing of my strength, I hold
your friend piggyback on the lawn—I’m bent,
laughing, his elbow hooked around my neck.
exhausted, my hair flying loose, my eyes
squinting at such rich shades of blue.
That was before I flipped the car. You took that
too, the metal crushed like foil or paper
while I lay miles away in ICU.
In most, I seem content, holding the cat
or drinking coffee with my high-school pal.
What did I know or did I lose from then
to now? Here’s one in
neating the shore beneath the road we ride.
is that the way we lose ourselves in time:
a wind or ocean chips away the land;
we wake one day to find ourselves surrounded,
water to our hips, the island gone?
Last year my parents came to see the house.
You and Mom installed an extra phone line
to run the modem that you’d bought. “You two
can talk through e-mail,” said my mom. Her smile
stung; she never read me very well:
our own strained smiles still trying to believe
in what we were, still trying to deceive.
there are no pictures of that visit; you hardly
took the camera out all year. We never
did get copies of the wedding proofs.
The photos with the shadows that you hate,
and hardly any of our guests. We shrugged
and said, “What can we do? He is our friend—
he took them all for free.” We rolled with things.
That was our way. When Sara came, the time
her husband threatened to find a whore, we made
the extra bed, drank tea and talked till late.
and when my cousin told us he was gay,
we gave him hugs, played Scrabble all night long.
The pictures end in
got married there last June; there’s only one
of us together, riding the train, your hand
holding the rail above my head. We smile,
of course. We had to smile—this was a picture!
And then blank pages after that. I turn
and turn as if to find a future there—
us headed West, or fixing up the house—
as if the slots of plastic might be filled
with answers to the questions: what went wrong,
why loves leaves us, or how to carry on.
from Bodies that Hum