blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Disappeared: from a photograph by Gustave LeGray

"a woman moved during the exposure, resulting
in a blur at the center of the photograph."

     —exhibit note, Getty Museum

Because of her disobedience,
she has disappeared, leaving only this ghost
beside her husband, who hasn't noticed yet,
he is so intent on his own lasting image.
A rifle slung over one shoulder, he seems to be
smoking a pipe, but it's hard to be certain
of anything in this small print of travelers
on a French river bank. Everyone
holds still but her. Maybe she turned
to look back, like Lot's wife,
at where she had come from, maybe
she simply heard a sound: a dog barking or a pheasant
scared up from the grass, and for that
transgression, she dissolves into her private
future, while the others stay behind, stopped
in this static eternity, like the patient
out cold on an operating table, perfectly clear
in another photo, a team of surgeons
hovering over him as indistinct
as angels, faceless, refusing to be saved
by stillness themselves, but all of them believing
that if you want to be saved,
you have to die in some way first,
as in the ironic pact with god that has us
agreeing to death as prerequisite
for eternal life. Maybe ghosts are nothing
but resistance, and the disappearing
woman's body has become a ghost
because it could not stop—
even for the camera's few minutes—
responding to the call of this world.  

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