Photography & Film

What Is Sacred

I have no idea what priests
dream of on Christmas Eve, what prayer

a crippled dog might whine before the shotgun.
I have no more sense of what is sacred

than a monk might have, sweeping the temple
floor, slow gestures of honor to the left,

the right. Maybe the leaf of grass tells us
what is worthwhile. Maybe it tells us nothing.

Perhaps a sacred moment is a photograph
you look at over and over again, the one

of you and her, hands lightly clasped like you
did before prayer became necessary, the one

103 Korean Martyrs

Where was it that we went that night?
That long, low building: floodlights
rimmed in lavender, the moon ringed
in rose. I would rather, then, have stayed

outside, where spiderwebs glowed
like jellyfish in the damp yew hedges,
where the paths were chalky pebbles
set with giant stepping stones.

But the film was starting. In the air-
conditioned dark, a crowd of strangers,
strange families (not from our church)
in rows of metal folding chairs to see

Photo of a Girl on a Beach

Once when I was harmless
and didn’ t know any better,

a mirror to the front of me
and an ocean behind,

I lay wedged in the middle of daylight,
paper-doll thin, dreaming,

then I vanished. I gave the day a fingerprint,
then forgot.

I sat naked on a towel
on a hot June Monday.

The sun etched the inside of my eyelids,
while a boy dozed at my side.

The smell of all oceans was around us —
steamy salt, shell, and sweat,

but I reached for the distant one.
A tide rose while I slept,

skinny-dippin’ in the gene pool

the streets of hell are also paved
with fear of contagion
I have been swimming
in enough barbed-wire waters to know
you’ re not even safe on the beach
it’ s not just your “body fluids”
it’ s the grime of your skin
those dirty things you think

they are cleaning up the world again
I can see the inflammation
heartbreak & hunger scurry me down
on the road to Damascus
I want to be blinded like Saul
for the sake of vision
not just cause I can’ t take it anymore


A white bull, a cassock, an antique mirror
The famous ones have passed hours in front of,
A midnight blue tuxedo, a fainting couch, a key
To a box of lewd photographs, a swastika,
Twelve bales of hay, three grave plots, a statue
Of Christ holding a heart pierced by a dagger,
A black patch, all kinds of utensils for the sick —
Including thirty-nine feet of catheter tubing,
A houseboat, a dog, a baby grand, an oar
Said to have been carved from a lovely river
And a woman’ s hat by Alfred Jarry, a mattress,

From a Photograph

Her arms around me — child —
Around my head, hugging with her whole arms,
Whole arms as if I were a loved and native rock,
The apple in her hand — her apple and her father,
and my nose pressed
Hugely to the collar of her winter coat — . There
in the photograph

It is the child who is the branch
We fall from, where would be bramble,
Brush, bramble in the young Winter
With its blowing snow she must have thought
Was ours to give to her.

To the Returned Girls

Will you read my little pome,
O you girls returnèd home
From a summertime of sport
At the Jolliest Resort,
From a Heated Term of joys
Far from urban dust and noise?

You I speak to in this rhyme,
You have had a Glorious Time
Swimming, golfing, bridging, dancing,
Riding, tennising, romancing,
On the springboard, on the raft —
You’ ve been often photographed.

Antiquity Calling

Looking at Mapplethorpe’ s Polaroids, I learn that he
liked shoes and armpit crotch-shots of men and women,
both shaved and un’ — all giving a good whiff to the camera.
But best of all are his pictures of ordinary phones
which convey a palpable sense of expectancy as if
at any moment, one of the fabulous, laconic nude men
strewn about might call. One could pick up the receiver
and hear the garbled sound of ancient Greek and Roman
voices reveling in the background. But even when silent,