from the paris review
i bought a camera, though there were
many reasons not to.
in spite of the reasons not to
(because of the reasons not to),
i bought a camera.
i took the camera down the blue ridge,
through the smokies, on to nashville and mississippi.
the first shots were done
on the way, in philadelphia.
friends’ faces, looking at the ceiling, quizzically
aimed at the lens, later squinting in the sun
on a doorstep, told the story: this
was an unaccustomed view.
we were not in the habit of hugging or memorializing.
so what was i doing behind this tiny machine, checking for
distance and light—o.k. or not—corralling them
into a common space? what, in fact, was i doing
on vacation? i said i was practicing. this explained
to begin with, subjects drifted in, like
the hang glider against the velvety hills.
next, the two of us fishing on a rock, each
individually. i couldn’t show you reeling
in the second half of the rod
thrown midstream on an exuberant cast.
too preoccupied helping pull.
then the rain forced us to strip
to swimsuits and run to the shelter
of the campground ladies’ room. some dry youngsters
in a car were entertained by the scene.
i got busy wiping the camera.
and we moved on, learning to edit
and eliminate. as you can’t go
everywhere, you can’t photograph everything.
it sounds easy now.
mind, i had shopped around, weighed my need
and my needs—none was great—and had
found the best deal. transactions
usually cancel doubts.
i got an octagonal house, a
riverboat, spanish moss, you against a
hydrangea (we could have posed with roy
acuff), brahma bulls, me supine in a brook,
a factory in kentucky, wet cloths on hot heads.
i grew fond of my pocket camera with the excellent lens.
then i lost the camera.
most replaceable among the missing that night
i came home to a ransacked apartment, it rankled still.
i thought of stopping there. i
had had my fun.
but taken by that close-up of a magnolia—or was it
the toylike body? like a trick squirtgun —
the challenge of a price war, or the next trip,
i had to duplicate this matter.
live a picture, steal a moment, interchange them,
say i am
by all means, buy a camera!