looking so much like her,
minus the furs and estate jewelry,

maybe it's

your eyes, and the way you've cropped, composed

your long and loosened hair
this photograph

falling across a stranger's face


your hand is brushing across the
their
his
lips
on the reverse
: Lisbon 1890

and it sort of connects
to whatever it is I'm thinking of

The angle of her head is unnatural,
cocked like she was listening for a carriage
to round the corner on its way into town,
wheels and hooves kicking up dust
visible from the parlor room where children,
forever young and with small voices that echo
through empty corridors and past the unfaded rectangles
on walls where family portraits once hung, waiting patiently
to be replaced with examples of this fanciful technology
that forced perfect stillness of body and perfect posture
on perfectly cloudless days in a way a painter would never dream of asking for,
correcting changes in expression from memory as he went,
taking breaks to sip iced tea from tall, thick-sided glasses,
telling jokes and allowing for small increases of status -
linen cuffs shine like silk, chairs gain filigreed feet,
walls fade down from off-white to more expensive pigments, bright yellows
just five years ago in fashion, made from crushed flowers and sold to
brighten up dark rooms, glowing under never-ending sunlight.

But instead she cries in pain at her wrenched and corseted back,
taking no pleasure at the photographer's assurance that the brace,
footed like a walking stick and curved at the head like a crutch, would keep her
neck appropriately long and elegant and could be scratched out of the prints with a pin,
but that unfortunately there was nothing he could do about her dress.

Not in that light, no. Nothing to be done at all with her in that light.

There she sits still, image
locked on that illusory paper,
beautiful, but a little stiff.
She was posing in a time when
photography was serious business;
you had to be a prepared centerpiece,
not a storm petrel caught mid-second
in flight over the smooth, rolling waves.

Her clothes and parasol
are the fine white of sea salt,
but her dress is soft linen armor;
that delicate skin never felt the burn
of the hot sun and she never ran through
the seaspray and the crashing waves, so cold
they seem electric in their force and shock.
No, the rough ocean was the realm of whalers
and half-naked heathen islanders, not ladies.
So she spent summertime trips to the beach
under a wide umbrella and drank mint tea,
and the vast green sea rolled on without her.

The smooth line of her jaw is fuzzy;
did the photographer's hand tremble
as he slowly exposed her image,
or was it a problem in the solution
sloshing in small waves in the pan
in his landlocked darkroom?

Her body is gone, only this
flat, crackling image remains,
but even now, still she trembles
deep in the paper, where particles
that form her likeness waltz
in quick, subatomic union.

Perhaps more of her still moves
in the scattered elements her soul shed;
she's in the ground, she's in the air,
and as her blood once thrilled
at hearing exotic tales of travel
to places that she could never see,
now she travels in a slow, millenial
circulation around the continents,
pulled by the sun and moon, and now
she knows what Ocean really means.

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