Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memory and Photographs

Part 1-Why I Return to Columbia

The enormous white clouds, the gray sky, the graphite lake, the mats of coffee drying in the sun, the two Indian women with black hats sitting in a grassy field, the alcoholic carpenter, the stone patio where the women wash clothes by hand, the silver scent of eucalyptus, the little white coffins, the German scissors, the shortwave radio playing boleros, the crib beside the window, the lime ovens dotting the landscape like prehistoric dwellings:
What if all the stories you knew about the past fit into tiny photographs the size of slides, black & white with crenulated borders?

Part 2-from Winter on the Sawtooth

I take the liberty to flip through his pictures. Above us, a starling emerges out of nowhere. Lost in the season. Bounding from nest to nest. But so quickly, I'm fixated on these pictures. Not because they are well taken. Josh has a crude eye, and it's quickly evident that everyone, in nearly all of the photographs, is drunk, my son included. My interest is piqued because of the sheer volume. He has so many photographs of Sarah. Pictures in which she is the focus, in which she is posing, in which she is wearing black tights and patent leather shoes, wearing merino wool and a foolish pillbox hat, wearing Levi's and canvas shoes, wearing a loose green-and-white baseball-team ringer T-shirt. And there are pictures in which she exists by accident, as an incidental ornament in someone else's portrait, a blurry figure in the back of a Chinese restaurant. For the few minutes I look, and for days afterward, I'm left with a dark, discomfiting regret that, for all my effort, I can't seem to lose.
"Here," Josh says, "Let me show you a picture from the day I met her."
To have such a thing, I think.

Part 1: Maurice Kilwein Guevara's Autobiography of So-and-so: Poems in Prose
Part 2: Stuart Nadler's the Book of Life

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