put the flame to it

samplesSingle Again


I’m amazed

the thin paper

holds the weight of our history

the moment of us together

smiles so wide they burst out of the frame

smiling and holding

so long ago

and there we are


by the harsh light of the flash


by the room behind us

what ever happened

to that lamp

to that t-shirt of yours

I still have mine

you gave it to me that day

I remember

the photo remembers

do you even remember me


the paper

that holds the ink

has no memory

of the times we looked at it

the people we showed it too

it holds no memory

yet it holds the weight of that history

our history

up to that moment

up to that single opportunity

for the photo


I am amazed

the anger you held

remained hidden

from the camera

but not from me

I could feel it

there under my hand

the one around you arm

my fingers over your heart

or near it

or something like that

the paper holds it all

holds us forever


forever unchanging


does a little of the past

seep out of the image

each time it gets looked at

does it fade

so imperceptibly that I can’t notice

though I was able to notice

when you

seeped out of my life

when you slipped through my fingers

when we found each other at

opposite ends

of dream fulfilled

to dream empty  vacant

till we found each other

or rather

stopped finding each other

you shouting in fury

at the very sky

at the price of electricity

at the frustration

of things changing

at the way

everything put together

sooner or later

gets put together again

different pieces

different furniture

new lamps

new lumps

new moments

and new photos


here’s one of me with someone else

I know it isn’t you

and you know

you want to be here

but the frozen anger


so quickly that

our hearts couldn’t contain it

couldn’t hold the fragments

when they had a chance to express

to shatter

scatter shot

around at all available targets

the lamp that flew into the wall

the curtains that wound up

shredded in a ball

the camera sold in a yard sale

the t-shirt folded neat in the pile

and when it comes up

I remember the photo

where we smile together

arms around each other

looking slightly at each other

and slightly to the future

at the same time

a future

we felt was within the frame

that was on the same page

that was going to outlast

the paper

and turned out

not to be worth the paper

it was developed on


I long for that day

for that golden little fraction

when someone caught us

our living room

hugging  grinning

younger  easier

prepared but not for what happened

in reality totally unprepared

not willing to give in an inch

not willing to accept the constant

stream of zig zag truths


all that

is here in the palm of my hand

here on this stiff piece of paper

how can it hold so much

why doesn’t it crumple

under the weight of the image


the memory

so fragile

that it will burn


if I put the flame to it


park that cold day in the park

This a piece from the archives – as early as 2000. I wrote it for the Queer Writers workshop. My fascination for photos goes back even further. I have some pieces about pics I wrote in high school in another cave of of archives.

In pulling this one out I’ve done some revision, changing lines lengths, cutting where it goes off course, adding some. It’s hard not to look at this old piece & not have it informed by the present & some of the recent pieces I’ve written about the power of the photo.

blue 62 Blue Street

Some of it plays on the fear a photo can steal your spirit and also the horror trope of pictures changing – people appearing or disappearing in them – ghost images – here the it’s the ghost of memory.

escape no escape

In a way it also echoes an Alden Nowlan poem about a recording of symphony orchestra in which instruments disappear as the musician dies in real life until all that remains is a single violin. Probably playing “ Hearts and Flowers ” as the photo in my piece burns.

sunny-sideart sunny-side up

One thought on “put the flame to it

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