Up against the lens

My lens is not ten inches but two but 
my wife tells me size doesn't matter,
size isn't every thing and I know that 
is just what wives of men with small lenses
say to make them feel better, to help them
feel better about themselves when they 
find it so hard to find anything to feel and 
I do know that size really doesn't matter
and besides, two inches is plenty big 
enough for me to hide behind as long 
as I keep it between me and the world.

It's not the tool you use but the trade you
craft, the craft you trade, the crafty trade-
offs you make in your life, the choices you 
make or don't make, the drafty voices that 
whisper to you through your pillow at night.

And yes, being a man, I will look at your cleav-
ing words--at where the words have split your 
chest in two--and I will stare, there, where they 
expose your heart and yes, I will try to capture 
that, in images, with words of my own, with pixels 
and phonemes and why not?  It's precisely what 
I do every time I look in the mirror and stare at the 
face that stares back.  
                                    There is nothing else for it.

These words try to describe some thing or state
that can not be described and this lens, this shutter,
will try to capture what can not be captured.
Moment upon moment upon pixelated moment
the sensors get bigger and more sensitive and 
the noise increases and the interference increases 
and the pieces, the particles and the pixels shrink 
and split and collide and spin off into incomprehensibility.

This world is and always was and always will be 
shattered by our sight.  Our very presence splinters 
the present into shards of light while we remain 
in the dark, while we wield words and glass with 
equal equanimity and impotence, like torches, 
like flashlights in a vacuum, poised on the edge 
as we are, staring into the only abyss we know,
the only place we can call home, the only hole
we can possibly hide in, and hide we must
or be shattered as well by our own splintering
vision.  Words, pixels, grains of silver or molecules 
of mercury-laced pigment licked from fingers all 
make us slowly mad as we suck the life from all
these little tasted bits and bytes, as we long to 
hold it all together--on the canvas, on the page,
on the screen--together with whatever is left
of any sanity the world has left to loan us. 

And is that all it comes down to?  A yes or 
a no?  A universally remote on or off, click 
or don't click and miss the moment either way?

We will miss the moment any way we can.  We
strive for new and interesting ways to miss 
the moment, anything to avoid staring that 
simple on/off switch in the face, one hand fighting 
to flip it up while the other tries to turn it around
into something (anything!) more, some other 
question that we might actually want to answer,  
some problem infinitely more complicated and 
therefore easier for us to grapple with, one more
substantial, one that we can talk ourselves around 
and around to anywhere but the truth of our
ignorance, the only truth we'll ever know 
in a world reduced to words on a plate.

13 thoughts on “Up against the lens

  1. Wow – there’s so much here, I’ll need to read it again several times. My first thoughts consist of: The idea that adding more pixels will get you closer to capturing perfection. That slicing toward infinity will finally bring you there. That any picture or set of words, no matter how perfect, can ever capture a hint of the moment we so desperately want to hold on to. That a photo is like a poem, a pale attempt to hint at that perfect moment. That the idea of beauty is some type of perfection, when really it is the imperfections that make true beauty.

    So you’ve successfully sent my mind in a spin, and I thank you. No doubt there are any number of poems that could come from these ideas, if only my paltry thoughts could be corralled into something coherent.


    • Thank you OoaC–interesting thing about pixels–as you add more and more, electronic interference and “noise” increases greatly and you end up with a grainier image. While camera makers are currently working their way around this, it is still a problem–only so many pixels fit on a sensor…


    • That is one that has been on my reading list for many years. Just checked at our library and they don’t have a copy. Have to see about requesting it, but I have a feeling that’s one I’ll want to own…


  2. I love especially your first paragraph and your spin on “size doesn’t matter”. This made me smile.

    The photo I’ve gotten the most complements on in recent years was a random click with an old camera phone completely unchanged. The light was perfect and everything lined up just right. An actual photographer (not a cellphone snapper like me) with rather large collection of rather large lenses asked what kind of camera I took it with.

    Size doesn’t matter. (Since I’m not your wife, you can believe me. ;-)) Keep clicking pics.


    • Not sure what constitutes an “actual photographer,” (that one’s probably as hard to answer as what makes a “real poet”!) but I have had an experience many times that speaks to this ego/macho aspect of photography (even among women-photographers). I shoot a pro-level (or at least close to pro-level) DSLR, but SO may times, when I see someone shooting and start up a conversation or hear that they are a photographer, the FIRST question they will ask me is “What do you shoot?” meaning of course what Brand of camera do I use. When I say “Sony a700” invariably their response is a rather snide, dismissive “Oh,” because of course “real” photographers shoot either Nikon or Canon. This has happened more times than I care to think about. I have almost gotten to the point when they ask this of just saying “oh, just a piece of crap dslr” because that’s what they think already…
      Luckily, I have a few friends that know better.

      As to the size thing…
      Being so unfortunately Male, I feel it necessary to point out that the “I” in this piece is a persona and not necessarily the voice of the poet as such. The poet, of course, has a very nice-sized lens indeed! 😉

      (p.s. I’m working on a response piece to this called “My Lens Is So F#<%!ng Big…") 😉


      • Wow. Uh… I’m glad to hear your… um… LENS… um… is adequately sized for the… mmm… job at hand. :-))

        Yes. Materialism is rampant, even in poetry and photography. I will not tell you what kind of old rag computer I write on. 😉



  3. Stunning.
    I found myself carried along so effortlessly by the rhythm and flow of this; an aspect of writing that I feel a lot of poets miss the opportunity to take advantage of. I echo oneofaclass in that I’ll have to read this one through several more times to get everything that’s there.
    Well done indeed.


    • Thank you very much indeed, Austin. I really appreciate the close read and the comment.

      Someone once said (couldn’t say who…and I could be imagining it, but…) “A good poem should take you somewhere and then bring you back.”

      This could have been said about a story…or a song…or a play…I really can’t remember and google came up with nothing…

      BUT I feel this is important as well and I am often conscious of this kind of effort in my work, even if, sometimes, the place that the reader is left is a few feet shy of their starting point on the cliff-edge and they are left in mid air with spinning legs a-la Wiley Coyote…

      It’s the journey that matters.

      Thanks again–


      • I couldn’t agree more with the (possibly imagined) quote. Thinking about what separates deeply meaningful poetry from the writing that is pretty, but not necessarily lasting, the journey seems to be the one of the defining factors.
        I look forward to seeing what other journeys you have in store.


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