Holding Her

Nights in the darkroom, I hoarded
my daughter’s gestures,
the way she straddled a picnic bench
or lifted one hand as if to stroke
silk, the softest feathers.
It was her last year at home.
I’d worked to capture everything,
labeled the boxes of negatives—
camping, prom dress, Christmas.

Stirring prints beneath an amber light,
I waited for my girl’s face to surface, 
faint at first on the soaked paper,
pale as a night-blooming flower.
Time, which to a photographer
is both tool and the thing transcended,
worked against me too. She would go.
Even in that sealed room,
I felt the season turn. 

   -Atlanta Review, 2007 
                                        -- Sharon Fain
The Gravedigger  

Under his blue uniform he chose a dress shirt.
Its collar starched. Against it, his broad face
shiny obsidian. 

He unbuttons his top button before I take the shot. 
Leans his shovel against a cypress trunk, so I see only
his strong body. A man who digs in soil every day.
His co-worker says "She likes you-better stand proud."
In front of all the white curved tips of military gravestones
at the Presidio Cemetery, I take him grinning at me.

Springy hair gray near his ears. His silver hard hat.
Sturdy. I'm in love with him and he knows it and he smiles
so big I can feel his brushed teeth and soft lips.

When I call him three months later to get permission,
his phone's disconnected. I hold his portrait back from the show.
Send a letter to his boss, try to trace him.
Six months later I learn he's dead.  Sudden heart attack. No kin.

So I put him in all my shows, shamelessly, but never sell him. 
He's the one everyone wants and can't have.  
                                        -- Donna Emerson