all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Please include a link (www.papayamaya.blogspot.com) when reproducing any of the material in this blog. Thank you!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

on not taking photographs during vacation

It's not that Portland didn't call
for snapshots. In fact, it was lucidly cold
and the ducks that remained on the river
looked so happy, and the snow was there,
falling sexily, lusciously, like eyelashes,
and along the sidelines of a city park,
the dogs frolicked and chased
the last brave pigeons holding out
for whatever crumbs might fall.

But something of the tourist's heart broke down,
broke free and fled. That practiced muscle,
which aims solely to capture and collect,
the eye that frames four corners and believes
in the certainty of precious, fleeting things,
the willing body angling itself toward
the deciduous beauties of winter -
the tourist could not meet the gaze
of this city, its beneficent welcome,
the tidy clatter of its streetcars, the moony stretch
of water cushioning its shores.

It's possible the avenues felt
too much like home, familiar, easy,
surprisingly unexotic, and that the camera
remained in the glovebox because being here
wasn't at all like being in Paris,
with its eccentric curves and splashy backdrops,
its violin-hewed bridges and arching angles,
its tumescent kisses and theatrical lovers and wafts
of baking bread.

No, this was simpler, smaller,
kinder on the feet and so free of crowds
the tourist felt like she almost owned the place,
as if all these blocks were hers,
as if the skyline was still young and tender, discoverable.

Here, there was no need to explain,
through closeups of haphazard gardens
or the occasional squirrel flitting
through the trees, or quippy store signs or
the orbs of local produce at the farmers' market -
what she was doing here, exactly,
nothing she needed to offer,
no sense of place, or placement, or order,
no tangible something to anchor her earthward.

It's not that she didn't want anchoring.
She did, but not by the images she could capture
or the memories she could itemize.
She wanted to be anchored
by her own skin, the body it contained,
she wanted placement with this again,
her own landmarks and geography,
each dip and zenith and bend in the road,
each fraction and wholeness,
every causeway and peninsula,
each shimmying, electric thrill of a detour.

What she wanted was to return
to maplessness, to luck, to the
pure white light of letting go.

So the ducks remained unphotographed
for the five days of her visit, and the river
wended its way uncatalogued,
and the dogs jounced cutely and were left alone
to scurry in the snow with the birds.

And the tourist, too, faded into the scenery,
eased herself from the work of being seen,
of needing to see, of having to take such strict
and strident notice. She let herself
go soft focus, and leaned into the wind,
caught the cold square in the face,
unprotected from a lens, armor, excuses,
she leaned into the cold wind
and began the harder work
of standing still enough
to pay attention.

2 comments:

GailNHB said...

I absolutely love this piece, Maya. Your description of the decision to "go soft focus," lean into the wind, to walk and see and live it is exquisite. To let the tourist go and let the woman roam freely. Sometimes standing, sitting, being still inside is all we need. Thank you for letting us in and sharing it with us. With me. Peace, Gail

Marilyn said...

Love this. I, try, occasionally to 'force' myself to do this...but always fail. Maybe I need to take one trip with THIS as the focus. (Although I wouldn't have complained if you'd posted some photos of our old town...'cause seeing PDX always makes me smile.) ;)