Figure Studies

In old photographs, the formal
subject is often always posed:
holding an open parasol, standing
midway on a staircase or with one
foot on the running board of a car.
One could say, a favorite subtext
is certainty: everything finding
its place in the world, everything
pressed into service for a theme:
pulchritude, or coming of age;
and after, the ceremonies of coupling
and aging. The baby in its christening
smock, doll-like in the tiny casket.
The hero coming back bemedalled
after war: one arm in a sling,
one trouser leg hiding the shadow
of an exploded limb. Flowers
or a fake trellis in the background:
as if the figures were mere adornment
to the true subject which is time.

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