Near Munich, c. 1938

Someone she loved, and who loved her, held the camera
And pointed it suddenly, teasing. The focus is blurred.
She’s laughing, embarrassed and pleased, in a sun-struck meadow.
Overhead, a dark fleck in the distance might be a bird.

Whoever it was snapped the shutter before she was ready,
Her right hand half-lifted to push back the hair from her eyes
Or maybe to wave. The hands on the camera, unsteady,
Hold her like this forever, flushed with surprise.

A picnic lunch by the lake at the end of summer,
The weather not yet turned colder. Time, like a mote
In a sunbeam, floats weightless. Late sun, spilling over her shoulders,
Ignites her dark hair and the plain gold chain at her throat.

Off in the distance, late August is yielding to autumn;
Cumulus towers are brewing and brooding on rain.
There’s a dark line of trees assembled along the horizon,
And farther off still, the faint smoke-smudge of a train.

Time is an album of infinite snapshots like this one,
Each page flicking open an instant. Time is untrue,
An illusion, as colors are. Put your hand through it and reach her –
A girl in a sun-bleached swimsuit that might have been blue.


Photograph by Steven Chen. Used by permission.