I step into my mother’s room, she says, and though a woman’s body is a calendar of births and injunctions to death, time disappears. Only dead enough to bury could prove sound to silence or the anxiety I know by heart and lung. In my mother’s room. The tie between us anticipates any move to sever it. Terror and lack of perspective. The river runs clear without imparting its clarity, whether we step into it or not.
Deep in the bones, he says. If a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can cause a storm in Rhode Island, how much more the residues of radiation, family resemblance and past rituals. The stove glows red. Thin apple trees line the road. You think you are taking a clean sheet of paper, and it’s already covered with signs, illegible, as by child’s hand.
The heart has its rhythm of exchange, she says, without surplus or deficit. Mine murmurs your name while conjugating precise explosions with valves onto the infinite. I take it down with me, in the body, to develop in a darkroom of my own. They way the current elongates our reflection in the river and seems to carry it off.
A death without corruption is the promise of photography, he says. Focus and light meter translating a cut of flesh into a tense past laughing its red off. But the film’s too clear. Even if smudged with fingerprints. Even if the light falls into the arms of love.
Rosmarie Waldrop, “Conversation 23: On Cause” from Reluctant Gravities. Copyright © 1999 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Reluctant Gravities
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1999)