19 March 2008

It's so much more final, shooting with a film camera.

I remember this, holding Chris' Nikon, as we stand on a bridge in the Franconia Notch, and I am afraid to take pictures of anything.

Each second is indispensable; each shot is final. The click imprints an image on the film and--given our recent record--it will be months before these photos are developed, before we finish this roll of film.

All the un-captured days will stack up between the ones we memorialize and those we don't. I will forget this bridge with silver-grey rails, this afternoon drive home.

I've already lost the things I wanted to imprint: the highway guardrails rusted to brick-red crisscrossing over the snow as we reentered the highway; ice cascading down the cliff faces carved through the pass; the river running beneath frozen stones and a crust of snow; the whiteness of Mount Washington when the sun strikes it.

There is also a smokestack in a valley. Between the passing pines we can only see the top of its round lip puffing away into a clear blue sky.

That's where clouds come from, I tell Chris.

You live in your own dream world, he says, smiling.

And maybe when I write, I do.

07 March 2008

[This too is an ocean just discovered: the thrashing beyond the clearing, the tides of wind through oaks, a hollow wail all night.

I awake to the hollowness: this could be a river rising, this could be reservoir's flood, this could be the ocean coming--except there is no water, not even rain, only gales and dried boughs scraping against a black sky.]

05 March 2008

chalk factories and other observations

The only noise is the noise that you carry;
your own clogs scraping, the zipper on your coat,
your inhale and exhalation of frozen breath.

The palette today is washes of grey;
power lines heavy, beaded with pigeons,
barren trees swaying, ripe with finches,
minor motions against a still slate sea.

(In the winter there are no new cars.
Last night you drove through a chalk factory,
just to match the arid pavement, cracked white with salt,
the tawny grass and penciled-in trees.)

Forgetfulness of self, of place, of life itself
can be justified by this:
sudden remembrances and stark unveilings,
when you notice the shape of each grey stone stacked in the walls,
when you realize that dark oak limbs, bent against the sky
are the only thing holding the snow from falling.

03 March 2008

the signal man's wife

I am driving Hemingway down Main Street past the RIPTA stop by M. G. Jewelers and across from the Bank.

I wonder what he would take as true and write in his notebook.

He is fanned out across my passenger seat--white-haired and bearded, black-haired and mustached, always tall--gazing up off the torn pages of my paperback volume of A Moveable Feast--split down the binding, splayed in three sections.

He would not fit in the envelope that I mailed to Spain. So he drives with me and reminds me that anything true that I know or see or hear someone say is mine to write down.

Maybe it is the image of the Signal Man's wife, at least eighty, sitting in their Newell Street apartment with her pinkish-red hair piled high, curls across her forehead, lighting a cigarette and flexing her long narrow feet in moccasins as she flips nonchalantly between TV Land and the History Channel.

I rang their bell two minutes ago and have come by to get a photo of him, on the deck of his destroyer escort from World War II, because he was honored by our Senator this week. The photo is small and worn in the center. I can barely make out his features or the ship. I say I'll scan it anyways.

"Sit down he says," and leaves the room.

The apartment walls are bare except for a faded Monet print in a plastic frame. All the end tables are covered with framed photographs--kids I assume are their children, them dancing at a party. Her hair has been red for several decades. Before his hair turned white he still had a short little mustache no wider than his nose, no thicker than his upper lip.

She hands me a box containing his medals, while he settles at a back table to write the list of guests who were at his ceremony on a piece of stationary. She hovers between the couch and the ash tray, telling me how much she loves her caller ID, apologizing that the kitchen table is covered with nearly a dozen pill bottles, and saying how very nice the Senator was, "He's funny," she says. "He's so sharp."

"Don't make me out to be any hero," he tells me as I leave. I promise not to write anything he didn't tell me.

Driving back to my office I consult Hemingway.

What would he think of this city, divided into villages that fan our around old mills?--divided in memory into past and present, a horizon of mill smokestacks and causeways, the sturdy fieldstone and bricks still standing, waiting, silent bell towers and still-turning clocks--the river snaking through.