Phenakisticos

Eadweard Muybridge


History doesn't stop
      though we'll take a few hours
           to climb into the porthole
of sleep, then take out the trash;
      peel a bowl of potatoes, crack
           an egg, boil coffee, wipe down
the counters, read a book, curse, laugh, cry.
      I don't know which planets will align with
           the sun some coming weekend, or
whether they'll be visible through the rough
      breaker of trees. This morning,
           in the bay, wind carves a high,
scalloped path through waves. History
      is aways turning each crest like that,
           so we are figures in a flip book or  
stop-motion film where the horses run
      eternally in silhouette over the Palo
           Alto track and boys play never-
ending leapfrog. It is 1893, or 1874,
      or 1833. The woman in the green 
           silk gown and Gibson girl hairdo 
and the man with his arm around her waist, 
      sporting a thin mustache and tuxedo tails, 
           twirl round and round without stopping 
for a breath. When the photographer caught 
      up with his wife's lover in Calistoga,
          he said "Here's the answer to
the letter you sent my wife," and shot him 
      point-blank. I've never seen a bison, 
          which is ecologically extinct. 
But there's an animated sequence 
      from 1887, remastered in 2006, where  
          the animal is cantering over a field.

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