ambivalence

in this photograph
you are smiling
uncharacteristically
maybe having a good laugh

behind you the room is
lost in a grey blur
location obscured by poor light

the edge of someone's shoulder
intrudes from one edge
like a passing bird
the shutter having opened
a moment too late --
so much of life is recalled
by what happens just before
or just after the thing
that we thought to be important

you are holding a book
although your stylish vest
the shoulder, presence of 
a photographer, all seem to 
point to a social occasion;
perhaps events were less
interesting than hoped

I wish I could reach you there
ask about the laugh, or
let you toss me an inside comment
like a golden retriever
(a role I play poorly
 though it works easily for you)

I can almost smell the beer
faint wisps of weed from a
back room, perhaps contributing
to the grey, to the blur
the familiarity of
unfamiliar settings, like
yet another library, yet another
candle-lit bedroom

how odd to find this photo here
in a desk drawer filled with
momentos from a different time
faces and places I greet with
pleasure, untinged with this one's
rush of ambivalence

	                  -acm  (4/99)