Three Children Covered Half by a Thumb
Six saddle shoes, six socks, but only one,
whose face survives the caught slant
of aperture, smiles in pigtails, eyes downcast—
the readiest figure, in fact, is the man’s shadow
cast behind the trio. We’re shown here
a body whose parts both block the light
and are blocked by it. Not only what the man saw,
we see: also how the man stood, legs
wide, arms bent tight to close
the camera at his face. It’s so bright
off their skin I can nearly sense his squint.
Like every thing made, the photograph
intimates a view, even where accidental;
this offcast I found (from a stall at the flea
in Fremont, raining, winter, cold canal)
more than most reveals its own stance.
For sixty years an artifact of error, this
got kept—there is, we agree, something to it,
so sacred is the girl’s glance, so sacred
the place that we, looking the same way
the man did, take on. It’s proprioceptive,
how a person sees what another left by mistake
to see, though I realize the thesis
confirms itself: an object I’m certain
is most like an ear is, to another, a leaf.
But didn’t we both get the curl of it,
I could swear sometimes there’s a dance
to the mesh of it, a slink at the base of the back
as when I’m in my room and feel a person standing
on the street side of my door.