Emma Aylor

Many I collected for their light.      If there are men, they are incidental: I’m not here to see them,
I am here        to watch one woman through a few minutes,       a few photographs        April ’57
to	April ’58. She and her date                   on a creekbank             in the scrub,       on a rock
in the James River,    never together            (someone had to hold the camera).                  In one
diptych                   each poses in spring formal     —gloves and corsage, tie and pocket square—
on the Blue Ridge Parkway,                a curve in the road              I know.             Her skirt is cut
by a slight                  lean of the flash            from a car gone by. Her polaroid                mottles,
artifacts globed over her          head,          and I found          all these together on a trip        back
to Virginia,           at the estate sale shop,                        $5.                                    I can’t imagine
her                having a name.                   I have a tiny one of a woman called Milly              posed
in tall grass. Her name’s             right at the top, in ink;                 her exposure                  is high,
but                  she smiles out                         under hair like                            you’d look uphill at
someone you love      but haven’t told everything.         This is a marvelous place—     postcard from
Los Angeles, 1952—                        a marvelous place                                     you could keep warm here
melting as background               into which                                some                  half-kept figures’
legs,                           skirts ,                    shoes       ,                    hands                 shadow at faces
the camera never quite could get on the special paper  even the leaves in the colorless sky dissolve



I wrote this poem living alone in early rain in Seattle. It's an attempt to talk through why I'm drawn to some snapshots—those that are expressive, those that obscure expression, what is continuous, what disjoints, the sense of certain strangers—in a cedar box of old photos and postcards I keep.