De Rerum Natura
by John M. Davis

The first photograph stopped time,
froze her somewhere in Oregon,
around age ten.
She’s staring back at the camera,
her features finer than mine.
She’s younger than I am now,
standing in the farmyard,
before chicken coops,
the wind pulling at her dress.
My mother’s staring into the camera,
curiously, as if behind the lens
her past and present
could be tied, catapulted
into some distant future,
as if the camera’s eye
were her telescope,
and some truth telling,
some deeply hidden secret
might be revealed.

The second picture was just a pause,
a boy’s marginal consent to hold still
and stop fidgeting. My father,
caught on his way to alcoholism
and drug addition, to a life fragmented,
that touched my mother only sporadically,
as if two lives were simply gears,
to be engaged and disengaged,
as time accelerated or not.
He’s standing in baggy pants,
one leg crossed in front of the other,
a silly face on his tilted head,
his eyes crossed, seeming at seven or so
every bit the tragic clown he became.

The third has them standing outside a church
in Petaluma, California: She looks hopeful;
he seems eager.

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