Elegy for Photographs Not Taken

Love set you going

like a fat gold watch.

–Sylvia Plath

The way the snowball flies, high, silent, the sound

of it hitting a fence post, a stop sign, a car window:

one glove, two gloves, hand over hand, padding

small umbels of snow, packed, stacked, imperfect

missiles hurled across a crepe sky, oblique scents

of spring, stratified snowbanks, icicles like the

cold reeds of an organ line the white wood, a base

note of trout, spruce needles, mud, leaves, the

smell of sap warming, or peanut butter pulled out

of a crinkled brown bag (number 5) stuffed in a

parka lying over a radiator, crayons, well chewed,

hang nail of a wrapper, traces of a man in Detroit

or Windsor standing at a stamping machine, or

train men huddled in a wind tunnel smoking as

the freight trains roll, a woman in Winnipeg sort-

ing nuts into cellophane bags, the only pink acrylic

scarf in a line of white-smocked women, a desire

for a cigarette, ticking the minutes, no, no, no,

her quick hands, her well-supported breasts, thinking

of the prize ham, her winning numbers, a

game and a glass of beer later in a low-ceilinged

room lined with green tinsel, a sliding-glass trophy

case on one wall, jukebox on the other, seven

women holding hands under red pennants, black-

and-white photographs of men in uniform,

poppies pinned on their lapels, long glossy folding

wooden tables, yes, the round tin ashtrays, a bingo

chip, an empty cigarette package with a sailor in

one corner, hair stiff with spray, a heavy silver

lighter, crackling speakers, Johnny Cash, Hank

Williams, a cash-register bell, pickled eggs, a jar

of pennies, a scarf on the table, a pair of leather

gloves so hard and crusted from use and salt they

resemble concrete busts of themselves, a brown

vinyl purse filled with butterscotch Life Savers

and Juicy Fruit gum, a park riveted by columns

of light, a taxi cab waiting, a lost mutt, its angelic

tail, its bitten ear, a street light bursting through

spruce, the bus on Grant Avenue, the smack of a

puck, again, again, poplars parting the wind like

a man coming in from deep pools of kelp, columns

of elm straight as buildings nattering across the

lane, children swimming in puddles of rain along

the crevices of old curbs calving after winter’s

harsh retreat, laughter like bugs snapping at a

bulb, houses like small islands floating in yellowed

lawns, men with shovels scooping up the long

season’s turds, the first dandelion, robin, the creak

of lawn chairs being pulled out of storage, a

woman thin as a swizzle stick, circling hot coals

in her yellow-check shift, a jam of anger, orange

tufts of Labatts, a glass of cherries, of beer and

tomato juice over breakfast, eggs on toast, the

round television screen and mixed nuts, another

cigarette lit, feet on the boot scraper, the clink of

milk bottles, a late season sprinkle of snow, the

milk man retreating down the walk, silent, babies

lined up in cribs, the toilet full of diapers, a phone

call, a paper snapped open, a belief in headlines,

a cup sinking through soapy water, down, down

with a thud to bottom of the ceramic sink, would

we be any happier not remembering the ripe tomato-

red gift wrap, the pearl-blue plates, the

jug of sugar, the brown light fixtures, the Life

Saver candy book, the stiffness of clothing, the

red plastic radio with its gold dial, the little

placards flicking down the minutes, a robin nesting

the morning, the expanse of half-empty houses,

lined up along lone highways and mines, or in

the city with its stacked lights, rooms dark so

early in the winter night, how the night lights

penetrate, cars everywhere accelerating, braking,

dining tables laid with meatloaf and mashed

potatoes, sage-green tablecloths, lemon-yellow

napkins, the back ends of dogs walking away, the

curl of a cat tail, half-empty cups of cherry Kool-

Aid, fathers with plaid short-sleeve shirts soft as

kittens rubbing their feet like Boy Scouts and

sparking small fires, this one having served for a

year in the war, this one having flown a fighter

jet, this one with his dreams of football glory, this

one having done time in Headingley, they lean

against the large white block of stove, the sauce is

on the boil, babies displayed in small, moulded

plastic seats with thin bands of adjustable wire

lined up on the coffee table like the special edition

Rockwell plates they dream of collecting, the knees

of women in the living room on the scratchy bur-

gundy couch with thin spindle legs, the oldest

boy spins with a tray of cookies on his head, the

baby is paraded in her white ribbons, the youngest

girl is dreaming of a dress made of abalone

and shoes big as the cat, she is thinking of cutting

the curtains into shapes, what is that red, like

innermost folds of a rose, the red reserved for

drunk bumblebees, or lantern-gold walls in tiki

lounges, the olive green of the suburbs, three boys,

your age, with their palms open, plastic so thick

and curved it feels like shale, mushroom lamps

like slabs of onyx, young couples with their fondue

pots and Eames-inspired chairs, the colonial-

themed rancher where you spent Easter mornings

riding a sugar high, the blond hair of an aunt in

her cashmere sweater as an uncle dishes out chili,

the boys are skating still, warm air drifts into the

house, a buried doll, a burned snake, the desire

to be seen so hard it has become an erratic in a

suburban shopping mall parking lot, a young

tamarack, a mock orange wonky along the path,

an elusive garter snake, slugs, iris and carnations,

Kennedy pink, an empty colonial chair, a woman

with black hair and French nails, forest like florist

foam, green as a woman with soft Rs, sad as a

woman with a laugh like a cat’s tongue, a game of

bridge, ongoing since 1959, maple vilas table

thick as a skating rink, the edible poses, the sweet

plaid skirt of summer, Tang by the above-ground

pool, raspberry afternoons flat as the tides at White

Rock, a saltwater bath, a kiss beneath the pylons,

the barnacles, the greasy fish and chips, America

across the water: cheap gas and chocolate, para-

sailing over the bay, oh, filing off to the portable

with our Hilroys, pink and green, pencils in a

plaid sleeve, hoisting up to the roof where the

soccer balls gather like litter, in the north a rim of

snow on the peaks, the sky like crinoline, oh

pumpkin how you make children stand upright,

high up with the yellow-eyed black kites, the boy

with the freckles and puka-shell necklace lacerates

home plate, his knees slide like butter into you,

random, unadorned diamond, he smells like

speckled hens, you are erect as waste grasses, you

hack back the forest and lay out the turf, let the

geese tamp it down, the gulls tug at the seams,

heaven is other children, their patches of sugar,

their sweet breath rolling into the future, small

units of time, aren’t you there still with your posse

of girlfriends, hair black and straight across the

bangs, standing on the balcony over the cedars,

mountains like razors in the sky, I have loved you

more than myself all these years, your coal eyes

filled with strange couplings, your hands, how

they pawed at the moon that night we were so

cold the wind lifted us, twisting so that our eyes

peered into the ceiling where Beckett lives, his

soft, soft shoes playing the floor like a mandolin.

No items found.



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