Is sometimes all it takes to capture happiness.
If you’re lucky.
I’ve done it. Thousands of times.
One shot at a time, I would repeat to myself,
While double checking focus and f-stops.
The best it can be. All you can do.
No hope of meeting client expectations
Not on this job. Thankless really.
It never felt like a Nikon
I was holding in my hands
But their lives.
The hours alone are punishing,
arriving at first light at the bride’s parent’s house
before the makeup even goes on.
Forty pounds of equipment in tow
Sunrise, and nerves already
beginning to fray.
The bride for starters is never quite satisfied with
her dress or her hair
or her bridesmaids.
The groom often bears the look of someone
who has just been given
some very bad news.
Groomsmen are a particular challenge.
Lining them up,
they visibly stiffen.
Roll your shoulders, unclench your jaw.
Pretend you have actually met, I cajole.
To no avail.
And there’s always the visual artiste in the crowd
who tries wresting the camera away from you,
just for fun.
By the time I get to grab a bite
the buffet has been ravaged.
The wedding cake looks like a Dali painting.
Drunken husbands and wives
remembering their own ancient vows
push themselves in front of me at night’s end.
I still love her, you know, he slurs.
She rolls her eyes, shakily fixing her lipstick
before I freeze them in the blink of an eye.
I am always the last to leave
in the wee hours
just as the cleaners arrive.
I gather them together for the last image of the day.
They wonder why the fuss.
They wonder about this woman
Heading off alone in the dark.
after chasing happiness all day long.
It comes down to the ceremony now, the detail.
Pressing your shirt with the cutaway collar, not too much starch,
the way you liked it.
I sent the shoes that were a bit small,
but they were so fine-looking and you would approve.
At the last minute I remembered your favorite photo of all of us
for tucking into your suit jacket pocket.
Now to prepare the food for the mourners,
sandwiches to begin.
Made differently today,
the correct word is painstakingly.
The butter must be spread
to each and every corner of the bread,
from freshly-baked loaves.
Heap both sides of the bread lavishly with spreads,
No celery, you hated it.
Remove the crusts.
Assemble them ever so gently
before making the final cuts
into perfect quarters.
Clean the knife after each one.
Display them proudly
on my most treasured serving pieces.
And cloth napkins.
All is ready.
Invite them in.
I’ll get this right
for all the times
Among da Vinci’s countless notebooks, all written in code,
or backwards, to ward off thieves,
is found a jotting that translates to:
“Tell me if I ever did a thing.”
Hardest on himself,
his abandoned projects haunted him,
and those completed offer little solace:
scissors, the parachute, a clock with a minute hand,
the first contact lens.
An upstart, he sketched Mona Lisa, no doubt, just to keep us guessing.
Her lips alone took him 10 years.
Voracious curiosity fuelled him,
climbing a mountain outside of Milan to understand
why the sky was blue.
dissecting human cadavers to perfect his anatomical drawings and,
it is rumored,
When he was commissioned to paint the Last Supper
he reluctantly put aside a joke book he was writing,
and throughout his life was convinced that if only we had wings
we could fly like birds.
Imagine this man’s to-do lists:
“Have Avichenna’s work on useful inventions translated.”
“Get a skull.”
If it’s true
as grim neurologists now claim,
that our memory is far from intact,
that the very process by which we retrieve the past
is flawed, random, that it plays fast and loose with
fact, detail, even
colour. Then how exactly do I conjure
what was us.
If it’s all up for grabs,
all bets off,
what was true?
The way you looked at me that evening
on the boardwalk,
was it as tender as I picture it now?
And your kiss. As deeply felt?
Did you profess your love in three languages
or was it just two?
Before you round the corner do you actually
turn to look at me
one last time?
Are you in the blue shirt
or the red?
Are those actual tears?
But science falls short. It overlooks
the power of the human heart
which has a memory all its own,
where the moments of our lives never alter,
or grow old.
Where a look remains as tender
as when first it was delivered,
a heart quickens just as it once did.
Yearning as fervent,
passion as acute,
and in that special place
the moments worth remembering
lie in wait for us, inviolate,
undefiled by time
Coming to Nothing
The day-to-day momentum
carries us with it,
making it impossible to imagine
this all shall pass.
Too much to think this will end,
carrying us into oblivion alongside
all of our carefully honed plans,
our exquisite attention to detail.
Who can contemplate that one day
and not so very far away,
another, perhaps even a stranger,
will be charged to sift through our lives,
tossing into random piles
our old day timers, nail polishes
and favorite sunglasses,
expired library cards.
Who can comprehend that one day
Some distant cousin may glance
at a dog-eared photograph
of a laughing, red-haired woman,
and ask with fleeting interest
to no one in particular:
“Wasn’t she a writer?”
Fleming left his dirty dishes in the sink and found penicillin.
Modern medicine was never the same.
The inventor of Coca Cola just wanted to cure headaches.
because a dog owner scrutinized
the tenacious burrs
embedded in his retriever’s coat.
The most profound discoveries
are pure accident.
Go looking for one thing and find another,
On my way to a purebred prize winner
A mongrel butted in.
Best dog ever.
I thought the invitation said Thursday.
And found you.
Leave room for error.
Cast off loosely.
Await the entirely unexpected,
The utterly new.
You need to know that I want
Unabashedly sentimental songs.
Think Van Morrison
In his earlier, less angry days and
Dylan, in his later, gentler ones.
An instrumental of Annie Laurie is a must,
As too Mark Knopfler,
Who so magically supplied the soundtrack
For my days here.
You’ll need really good food for after.
Excellent, piping hot coffee and brewed Orange Pekoe in china pots,
Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Pizzas made to order,
And a Build Your Own ice cream sundae station
To add the requisite whimsy.
Display a very few pictures of me,
Not huge Bristol boards packed full of them,
So popular these days.
Black and white predominating, if you will,
My unwavering preference.
Yes, my nod to tradition,
Scads of calla lilies, but white only,
The yellow look fake somehow,
Oh, a few off white roses, would you,
Champagne they call them now.
And in the middle of everything
Position one commanding vase of
Fat white peonies,
Because their fragrance, their sheer deliciousness
Outdistances all the others combined.
Everyone there ought to tell
One story about me that stands out for them,
And not just of sweetness and light.
The dark, too.
You all know
I was more than one shade.
A piper would be wonderful at the close,
Just one, as there was for my father,
A whole band of them he felt excessive
And I must agree.
Then let me go.
Knowing that most days
I cherished this life of mine
And that while briefly here,
Laughed probably more than most,
Loved a few of you beyond measure,
And with providence in my corner
Was able to write a few poems
I would not change one word of