Opticks

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Photo by TJ Parker

This is her descending
glance captured
in a hidden photograph

taken when I was
an infant and Mother held me
at arm’s length. I look back

for her, unsurprised
still questioning why she doesn’t return
my gaze. Her eyes

fix on a spot between
her face and my face. For the infant
there is no distinction.

Her disaffection stains the intimate
objects found years later
among her things of everyday:

a thimble embroidered with a single petal.
a slim gold watch-stopped.
Brushes held to

dry in a bamboo roll. A tiny lime
and fuchsia dress sewn by her
hands for my hundredth day.

His wedding band, scarred
a muted gray. In the gap between us
a vacancy swells and bellies

the air where her eyes avert mine
to slide off where? I wish I could see her
engage and ignite

these traces of the ordinary,
the minutely particular
totems of our daily life: holy.

In an old dream, I plot a little boy’s flight.
Like a fighter pilot, I drop
a homing device back in time to spy

into the landscape of my infancy
before she turned her face away-
before my need was extraordinary.

~Eleanor Chai, Standing Water Poems

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