OM-1

.

.

OM-1

The body, at least, was at Tet.

Anyone can see that.

Probably kicked around some after that,

In the hands over and over of some lost one

Who had seen it first in the reporters

Curled and keeping fingers

And took it, blood and all

As a prize.


Then, more than likely,

Into the heart of darkest Africa,

A train ride into the erasure pit of Biafra,

The zoomed massacre of any nameless state;

Announced by a gathering of birds

To the eyes of greater worlds.

.

Fascinated by the shadow show of remains –

The bodies flattened in moonlight;

Deflated and surprised.

Always surprised,

When looked in the eye

Through a lens

Dinged beyond repair:

Shutter stuck on 1/30th of a second,

As if expecting a steady hand,

So everything blurred

Like final sight,

Deeper than any passing religion

At f16.

.

Then legless from beds.

A whizzchunk of the cocking lever,

The sure sound of a grenade fuse

Counting exposure;

The time it takes for a fragment of pig-iron

To reach the lizard parts of the brain,

The spotless mirror flip-up

Exposing the final frame:

A life of vision.

.

Into the sterile pocket of a rough textured nurse,

With a zone system of heartache.

He said she could have it anyway,

He would give it to her, anything,

For stoically digging away the steel balls

In the tenth day after  surgery

So he could finally with a relieving sigh

Move again the waste from his life.

.

At night she would touch the aged sharkskin case,

Soft and ready still,

The edges of the cut the color of beach sand,

Highlighting the royal blue black bruise

Of the skin itself,

Still strong after all these fractal years

Away from the sea.

.

She showed it to a coffee shop lover

In a Super 8 once.

He seemed to know how it worked,

Cocking it like the old man,

Explaining the nuts-flat film plane,

Making no sense in an Irish stutter worthy of Joyce.

Then the familiar flip of the mirror again,

The sure unwinding of the spring timer;

1/30th of a second released into life,

The mirror spotless still,

Dropping back to reflect and twist

Through the prism maze:

Every trick of light

T-Maxed and bare.

.

Grainy and pushed,

She pawned it for food

One day when she had had enough.

It was at Tet”.

She told the man at the cracked glass counter,

Who only smiled and said, “50mm, 1.8, clean.”

As he swathed away discarded promises

In the ring case

With his hairy and tattooed hand of god.

He scribbled a note that said:

In The War,

Which was close enough

To be true,

And set them in there together

To wait it out

In the fluorescent glare.

.

Listen”, he said, two weeks later,

Not hanging up when at first she didn’t answer,

There was film in that body.

So I developed it and I want you to see.

I think you should.”

The one film roll had been run through

Over and again,

The tail-end fished back out of the cannister

Like a blacksnake down a hole.

Light defined darkness,

Recorded in silvers of time,

The same lines of different days,

Until the negative was a confused unthinking brain map

Same as any life ever lived.

Just the smile lines of memory,

Bleached bones and thirsty silver mountains,

A word in French.

All except frame 32.

.

Musta capped the lens

And fired on black every time.”

He said, eying her closely.

He laid out an 8 x 12 print on the fast-food table

Next to bad coffee without looking down,

While cars sighed by outside in the heat

Like nothing was going on.

They sat in silence, unbelieving.

Until finally he pushed a diamond across the table

Like a gamblers last chips,

Someones tacky engagement ring,

Now a monument to truest love gone bad.

Then, with a hopeless grin,

Perhaps remembering his youth,

He said, “I thought you should have this.

It was worth more than I gave you.”

.

Later, she watched his elaborate tattoos

Breathing as he slept and snored;

Comfortable in the wet spot.

There was a moonscape of scar tissue

Under his tatts

Which bled out like the ink had hit wet paper

Not skin.

The word was the same,

Clearly French,

Maybe he had even cried it out

When he came into her,

Before falling into the sleep of indifference men get

When their work is finally done.

Strangely comforting; his relaxed weight upon her.

Then smothering, and he would not wake up,

So she worked her way from underneath his steamy skin

Like a miner trapped

In some depth of memory.

She sat on the edge of the bed

Watching the light change in the dark room.

He might have been dead.

So she picked up her purse

Noticing it was there again,

The sharkskin now shiny with tire cleaner

A fresh roll in,

Counter set to one.

She stepped into the thick scent of honeysuckle vines

Leaving the door ajar

For the chance that he might follow her

But he didn’t,

So she went on as she always did,

Only now

With a single blinking eye.

.

.

J H S

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