No one has learned to hold the camera still
so there is an earthquake
in the white blur of these frames.
New babies are displayed on blankets
and sometimes couples wander
across mountainsides or beaches
without their heads. It is often Christmas
or someone’s anniversary or a retirement
party where men are smoking cigars
and your grandmother walks through
the last years of her life in Florida,
beyond a hotel pool and a flock of flamingos,
to a sudden winter where snowmobiles
move in circles, carrying children
in orange suits. A tree glows in the window,
wrapped in tinsel, and the men are dressed up,
squinting into a kingdom of gifts.
An uncle falls in love with fall foliage
and a full hour passes,
in some lost Vermont October,
smoke seeping from chimneys;
then, you step into the light, a hand
over your eyes, as if you can see us
out here, watching, in the uneaten cake
of the future.
I like this poem because it speaks in images, and captures the sensation of watching a family movie, which is often a disjointed, sputtering thing that illuminates strange, formal fragments of our lives; family movies are usually badly filmed, and utterly boring to strangers, yet they offer glimpses into rooms of the past, allow us to see people who have died, and events before we were born; in this way, the movies are both terrible and powerful. I like working from photographs or, in this case, film because I begin with images, which are naturally infused with meaning.
Faith Shearin’s books of poetry include The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), Telling the Bees (SFA University Press), Orpheus, Turning (Dogfish Poetry Prize), and Darwin’s Daughter (SFA University Press). Her short stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Frigg, Atticus Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Sixfold, and Meridian. Shearin’s work has been read aloud on The Writer’s Almanac and included in American Life in Poetry. She has received awards from the NEA, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.