(Look Back in) Angkor

By Peter Halstead

A photo is a double-cross:
The soul, for one, a total loss,
    The residential spirits mocked,
        The walls defaced, the statues hocked,
But still we dupe the common senses
(Commonly with coupled lenses)
        As if reproductive vanity were linked
        To being copiously sync’d
And immortality depended
On lives numerically extended,
        Our rounded world wrapped and tied,
        The same design on every side
(Since everywhere on a standard sphere
There’s identical to here),
        Where the camera, in our place,
        Craves the perfectly proportioned face
(No doubt the shallow reason why
Nature duplicates the eye)
        And in our blindness nothing’s nearer
        To the real thing than a mirror
(Witness teen identities
Epitomized by fake IDs:
        What’s a photo if not equal
        To the living subject’s sequel—
The puffed-up self is still beloved
Even more when overdubbed).
        Above my head in fact I notice
        The Rorschach inkblot of a lotus
Where, doubling up, a flower tries
To cut the planet down to size.

March 20th, 1997