Audience of One


Late on a graying day,
As I scraped idly along
A broken ridge of thoughts,
A crag of tooth pushed through:
If only I could find her again
Somewhere in photographs—
Not that I really would expect
To glean any presentiment
From a chance expression
In photons trapped there
Beneath the thin chemical shale
Rather, more from my own imago;
Who I was who has again
Come to this pass, this traverse
In a pass, to this repetition
Of a look that may or may not
Have passed between us,
Or an inflection in posture
Preserved like Diplodocus footprints
In wet mud, accounting
Where we were headed to
Or why we disappeared.

That's you there—I'd forgotten,
It must be Christmas day
And you're beautiful in a way
I had forgotten; in the album
Of memory, you were always
More sullen, more hurt with anger,
Always fading beyond my powers
Of rectification...
Of restoration.
Here, on the treated paper,
You last, unperplexed,
Clear and primary, smiling
From me back to the camera
And I, too, smile
Without foreboding (something
I wonder if I still do).

Further back, in a slide tray,
Someone has caught you unprepared;
In this one don't I detect
Doubts, the suspicion of things
Going to go wrong, and me
Behind you, I'm looking away
At some other scene, looking
Uncontextual, uncropped.

Is this, then, the specimen of our undoing,
Even the very moment itself
When somewhere an asteroid fell
And ice began to crawl south
In the morning of the day when the sky
Began to darken and something
In us already knew what later
Would become this great extinction,
This great mystery
Leaving only traces in rocks
Of bones that themselves have become rocks?

Will careful chipping
And brushing and classifying
And reassembling of the collapsed
Inner scaffolding retell
How we cared
And came not to care
How we desired
And came not to desire
How we touched in love
And then came to cringe
How the muscles moved
Beneath the pliant skin
As we mated and fed
Or sounded as we laughed
And cried and bled
And finally died
Under an ancient sun.

Now this reconstruction
Seems a monstrosity.
The love which moved it
Evaporated with the blood,
Was removed with the skin
When it was pulled off
Into the cold snipping lens.
It doesn't tell the features
Of a live, hopeful thing
But only records that something
Wonderful has been lost, something
More magnificent than anything
We have now... unless of course
It survives somewhere
In the cells
Of a new creature.

Kevin Cornwall © All rights reserved.

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