It’s a specialty, a trick I like to do.
I stand with a relative, a friend, a pet,
bend the camera lens back,
point it in our direction,
center the unseen frame around us and
push the button.
Moments recorded—a laugh, a guffaw,
tenderness. The picture may stop but
we go on.
2001: I stand next to my father on top of
an impossibly thin tower, twenty stories high.
From it we can see the relentless expanse of
the central Florida lake country.
“Dad, come here…”
“Huh?” he replies. He has been losing
his hearing at an alarming rate lately.
His hands shake too.
“Come here, to the edge, I want to take a picture of us.”
The wind blows our hair and we can
see for miles, even the house he will
live in, the house he will take his life in.
I am 38.
2002: I kneel down next to my mom in
her favorite peach wingback chair.
Chemo and radiation have left her bald and thin.
The regret, the resignation, the despair,
the quiet fear is omnipresent in her eyes.
I point the camera at us—and something else,
nameless… not my father’s ghost but
something far worse: the empty space he left us.
I am 39.
2003: I stand in the half-light by the glass doors.
I have had a tooth removed but the area
is not healing. I have what dentists call “dry socket”—
and it hurts. My face, puffy and distended on
one whole side gazes into the lens.
Today is my birthday.
All around me is empty space, shimmering, swollen.
I am an orphan, alone. They will never get
to see me turn 40.
© JEF 2006