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.