i bought a camera | cynthia nadelman

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

the cam­era.

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

and see.

by all means, buy a camera!


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