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I Keep Two Photos Next to My Bed

By September 11, 2020No Comments

by Brian Roberts


One is of my father, brother, sister,
and me, from the waist down, standing
in front of a Shell station in Harlan, Kentucky.
A busload of Amish came through
while we bought Moon Pies and Cherry Cokes.
I stopped a kid whose beard hadn’t grown:
I thought ya’ll didn’t use cars. He looked
at the bus, scratched his bare chin:
We’re not driving it. We paid the driver.

When I asked him to take our picture,
he blushed, said he’d never used one before.
I told him to aim, push until the green light
came on, then push harder.

The other is of my wife’s calves, my forearm,
and a mackerel on our honeymoon to Topsail Island,
North Carolina. After I sweated the seven-inch
leviathan up onto the pier, Norma stopped
an old man with a bucket: Will you
take our picture real quick?

He hadn’t used a camera either. I told him to aim,
push until the green light came on,
then push harder, and Norma asked
could he make sure it was a full body shot.

When I dream at night, of what I want
in joy and in life, I dream things wrong
like the dreams are someone else’s dreams
of me seeing a stranger pushing
without knowing why. Then in flashes
I am the stranger, dreaming in calves,
halves of arms, mackerels. A black wad
of gum by our feet in Harlan
becomes beach tar salted
by its photographic negative,
the lambent moon spraying
phosphorescent on North Carolina sand.