In those light-drenched shots I used to make
Of beach plum colored by the island sun,
Summer summarized and done,
As picture-perfect as any eye could take,
In those hopeful fields of view
Lay a darker day than dawn,
As our younger visions tend to spawn
Brighter worlds than planets do,
And the shades of immortality
That gather at the brilliant rim
On these fading slides just skim
The deeper, distant fireworks of memory.
Rewritten November 19th and 20th, 2013
I wrote this on Christmas Day, 1999, and redid it on November 9th and 20th, 2013 in Lanikai, to reflect the deeper reality of what has happened to my photographs over time.
I was doing a book of photos of the family back in Nantucket from 1979 to 1987, and noticed that over half of my slides had become blackened with age or mold, camera skin developing splotches and radiation burns superimposed on what should have been immortal youth.
It isn’t just that mold darkens or shadows our mementoes, our skins, our slides, our planet, our memory, but that I write (and photograph) to try to preserve the brighter world, and have failed miserably. Not that such worlds didn’t exist, but that even in the driest basement in the dry mountains, time has caught up with technology (even).
Not just slides fading and mold growing, but even the poem I wrote about it was darkened by computer writing programs orphaned by Apple’s new systems. This has put the computer translation programs out of business in turn. If it isn’t that, it’s new ports, which don’t support older hard drives, or the drives themselves, which freeze up unless they are run at least occasionally.
So all things conspire against memory, even the seemingly solid scientific ins and outs of digital technology, as fragile as any quill pen.
Not all our lives turn out as bright as our photo albums might suggest. I hope that we can offer poems as substitutes. Or take digital photos.