Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF A PHOTOGRAPHER, by KAREN SWENSON

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THE DEATH OF A PHOTOGRAPHER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Light was his paradigm
Last Line: Down to its dark frame.
Subject(s): Death; Photography & Photographers; Unfaithfulness; Dead, The; Infidelity; Adultery; Inconstancy

Light was his paradigm:
he wove it, a cat's cradle
to knot them in, eyes rounded
to the dead instant on paper -
an 8 x 10 moment - glossy.

It was a trade of stealth,
the black box a trap
for the unstilted gesture;
and maybe that is why
he stole things -

ashtrays, wives, and Bibles -
always in need of basics.
He had compassion for the unpossessed
objects scarred by the anonymity
of hotel rooms, never taking the new,
only those roughed with use like
the corroded edge of his pant cuff.

And the wives:
perhaps it was the stealth and
the way he saw them in secret under
the catafalque of the camera's cloth,
smiles buried upside down on

ground glass, a mask reversed;
and still their skirts were neat -
defying gravity. Like a Japanese
who has saved a life, having seen
them exposed, he felt responsible.

Late at night, after
they had left, he enlarged their faces
and watched them bloom blank paper,
a monochrome resolve, swimming from
alkali to acid. He hung them on a
clothesline and left the room
ambushed by drying smiles.

There were six wet handkerchiefs
and one dry that would not
cry here, in the cold silence
of folding chairs.
The blurred faces turned

to the clattering edge of
sunlight and walked into their
own focus, while his portrait,
in a blue blazer, was nailed
down to its dark frame.

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