The sight of this pole triggered a memory. When I was in high school I woke uncommonly early one morning, and unable to get back to sleep I went outside. Light was barely starting to come into the eastern sky, and as I stood in my driveway looking down the street, the length of which which it faced, I noticed the silhouetted utility pole, which also had a streetlight attached to it. It stood about sixty feet from our garage door. I was inspired to go back into the house and fetch the Kodak box camera we had then, and from my driveway I made an upward snapshot of that pole with the slightly paling sky behind it, and the branches of the nearby acacia tree shrouding its lower reaches. I was taking a photography class that year, and I developed the film in the school lab and made a 5' by 7' enlargement of that shot.
It wasn't a very good photo, or a very good print, being too muddy and lacking sufficient contrast, but for me it was an evocation of that moment on that silent early morning street of darkened houses, and of the years I spent in the house that was behind me as I stood there with that camera which, over those years, had taken so many familiar photographs, and of the moments in rooms of that house lit by electricity that had passed through the wires on that pole, and of telephone conversations I'd had that had traveled through other wires on that pole, and of the other familiar places to which all those wires connected along all the streets the poles lined, block after block and mile after mile, a network extended year after year while I obliviously led my mundane young life in my dull corner of that burgeoning metropolis.
For decades, when I would rummage through my old photos I would pause and look at that picture of the utility pole for a while and let it summon memories, some of them always the same and others different, as deeply buried moments resurfaced in the long-vanished light that had been captured on that thin piece of photographic paper. There were a few dozen photos I had taken that could do that, but I never got around to digitizing them and storing the digital versions in some safer place, and the photos and the negatives all burned last November. Now that life I led has two layers of nostalgia: one for the times and places of the past, and one for the lost artifacts which were the tangible bits preserved from those times and places. I no longer have those photos to evoke what had been lost long before. The ghosts themselves have died, and now exist only, and only for a while, in my fading memory.
by Lorna Crozier
The cancer began in her tonsils,
she'd say that with a smile
almost expecting to be teased
for such a serious disease
rooting in that childish place.
She remembered her son at four
when he'd had his out,
the way he'd looked at her as the nurse
slid the cold thermometer up his bum.
She carried on as usual, cleaned the house,
fried a chicken for her husband every Sunday,
cutting the breast in four pieces, the wings in two.
The morning of the day she died
she took him down the basement,
showed him how to separate the clothes,
how to measure the soap, set the dials,
how to hang his shirts and pants
so the creases would fall out
The man with a worn-out heart, sold his tools
so his wife wouldn't be left with that part of him
to deal with. How he had loved them
in his hands, each so perfectly designed
to fit the palm, the wheels, bits and teeth
made for one specific use.
On the empty walls of the garage hung the shapes
of all the tools he'd ever owned,
sixty years of wrenches, saws and drills.
He'd traced around them row on row
so he'd know where to hang each one,
know what his neighbour had borrowed,
and failed to return. From his pocket he removed
a black felt pen and in the corner on a board painted white,
he drew the perfect outline of a man.
Before she walked into the river
and didn't come back, the woman
who couldn't remember the day of the week
or the faces of her children,
made a list of all the men she's ever loved,
left it for her husband by the coffee pot,
his name on the bottom,