Love Poem from Photographs Never Taken
The poet of heavy metal asks you to write a love poem from the photo album of your life. But you have no photos, no snapshots, and no albums and live on a dishevelled bed among bookshelves sagging beneath the music of American fictions. Amid the chaos of aging without the talismans of intimacy.
Maybe Ruth wears the cashmere sweater you gave her while playing Monopoly on Christmas Eve. She buys a house on Boardwalk. Your daughter rolls the dice before passing Go. In this family, no one loses.
When the poet asks what happened before the photographs you never took, you alibi that the white German shepherd only visits in your dreams. That you paid a single-ticket price just to hear Tom Waits sing, “Looking for the heart of Saturday night.” With its Oldsmobile and “the quiver down at the core.” The evening Ruth stood you up. During your merlot years, your German shepherd nudges Ruth's ankles as she draws your birthday pies from the oven. Sweet potato. Plum.
Why didn’t you photograph yourself in your cinnamon aloha shirt with the pink flamingos feeding upside down? The one time you had a chance to pose for the poem and take the picture, too. Years before, Ruth climbs the spiral stairs to the second floor of her art gallery. She turns to you with another photogenic smile. On the wall behind her, in her most recent masterpiece, a white dog emerges from the saffron bazaar in Saigon. The colours brilliant. The figures slightly blurred. Like the background of every studio she enters.
You lied to the poet. A shoebox tucked into your bedroom closet hides a faded Polaroid of your German shepherd looking back at you while walking on a greenway. As if she feared falling out of your heart. A waiter juggles a carafe of cabernet in a restaurant off the beaten path in Rio while Ruth a cappellas “Mania de Você” to celebrate an eclipse. On a night when candlelight is all the light you need.
Ask yourself who captured the shadow beside the white dog?
Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Fatal Flaw, The Woolgathering Review, and The Indianapolis Anthology. Poems are forthcoming in Flying Island and Last Stanza Poetry Journal.