Ghost in Glass
She asked me to take his pictures from the frames,
Fold them over.
so they didn’t accost her all at once,
…could be handled without eye contact.
Four years along, the memories lurk and linger;
the sensations surge and smart.
I live in this house for her.
I can live here amid the vexing vapors
which are but air to me.
…while my ghosts live elsewhere, or within.
I did as she asked,
gently prying and peeling apart frames
made like they don’t anymore,
bonded to heavy paper or board,
tacked with tiny nails into precisely mitered wooden windows
with real –and really sharp and fragile– glass,
and sealed in with textured tape meant never to be removed.
These portraits and their frames combined to become events,
It was impossible not to damage the delicate photo-paper and the frames,
Like a suitcase, once unpacked, can never again
so compactly accommodate the same contents,
and the way the box containing my mother’s cremains was meant to be breached only once,
not for multiple dispersal events years apart.
I felt a removed tenderness for the photos, their subjects, and their absent custodian,
but almost grief for these carefully built windows on history meant to hang among the columns of some future antiquity.
I wrapped the photos, which would not survive folding,
In heavy, opaque grocery bag paper.
And only later, as I walked into the room, lit differently now in the afternoon sun,
was I “accosted” by a ghost.
A laughing cherub with cowboy hat and gun
loomed in glass daguerreotype before me,
amid a wreckage of “empty” frames:
Photographic residue of a face pressed so long and exuberantly against that window.
A child’s cascade of mirth echoed through the decades,
from a past familiar and mysterious,
percussing me like buckshot.
My heart welcomed the surprise, the eternal cheer of that face.
My mind lurched to protect the friend who must not see this.
This boy lost that smile, anon.
Once sparkling eyes, became piercing.
He became a good, but guarded man.
Knowing this, it gave me pause to be as another perpetrator,
And wipe away all trace of that gleeful face.
But knowing how that visage, its very happiness,
the trist incongruence of that happiness,
lashed the heart of my friend,
I blessed him, though not quite long enough, I feel now,
and I swept his face from existence,
with a soft cloth, Windex, and a bittersweet satisfaction.
It was too easy.
A memory so cloying,
A pain—provoked ironically and insistently by such sweetness—tangled like a creeper in another’s heart,
so effortlessly wiped away in three gentle strokes of my hand.
9 August, 2015