Friday, August 14, 2015

The Snapshot's Deckled Edge

The trunk structure of this creekside cottonwood shows up best in early morning light.
Near the bottom, under the chicken-wire, you can see the green place where the tree often tries
to send out new shoots. This is the place on the tree the beaver took his last trial at chiseling 
just before we moved in. When I went down to the creek for the first time, 
there was a pile of good-sized chips of fresh, beavered wood 
on the ground, and a big new wound on the tree!
The beaver was the reason I wanted to live here, but
Idaho Fish & Game have relocated him, perhaps to a place further from the suburbs.
This spring, my neighbor took the chicken-wire off the trunk of his cottonwood-next-door,
which is the kind of job I don't really want to do, and it doesn't seem essential.
When I was in Printmaking Class, Marianne had a project of making portraits
of specific trees and then creating small editions of prints. I liked them very much!
This tree would have made her a good subject.


Off to one side, under the leaf shade, I spot myself
staring toward the snapshot's deckled edge, curious
apparently about something going on there, some mar-
ginal event, perhaps even a stranger passing by, or a dog
on a dog's serious round. I've forgotten the lens and
closed my eyes to the photographer's directions and
stepped back into the shade while the others, all
strangers now, practice their various poses, each trying
to win whatever prize it is that photographers seem to
offer. The strangers work hard at it, showing their teeth
of different sizes and conditions, squinting quizzically, 
or raising their eyebrows with all the supercilious
aplomb of eight-year-olds. So eager, so sure to win while
I have done everything possible to take myself out of the
picture without actually walking away. I still wonder
what moves beyond the stiff margin, lying low behind
the thick leaves that shade the house, watching.

Vern Rutsala
A Handbook for Writers; New & Selected Prose Poems,
White Pine Press, 2004, page 109.

Here is another prose poem from that master of the form, Vern Rutsala. I love the clear description and the emotional tenor of this poem. Have you tried writing a poem on a snapshot of you as a child? I should, my mother took many fine pictures of me.

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