Black and White
I spent my morning in Alaska, cleaning the dust
from a snow-covered mountain
brilliant in the low winter sun.
Thirty below, with hundreds of spots, dirt
and scratches: the wear of twenty winters,
landslides, thaws and freezes, the disfigurements
of age. As I work, I wonder if the ridges and slopes
have sloughed and fallen, baring the rock, wiping trees
away with draughts of compressed air, changing the landscape
Finished, I pretend to stand again in a darkroom
and the scent of fixer mingles with a crisp day,
numbing my nostrils. I ask Ansel to bless this,
my latest effort to visualize the zones as I recall them,
my performance complete with a last twist of a dial,
burning highlights just so, keeping detail in the texture of the whites,
dodging shadows, rendering the cold of the past into the cruel
and pristine shades of the present.
I am reminded of all that has been seen
and disappeared before me in the frosted glass-breath of time;
and even Ansel can’t bring it back, can’t make what was reappear –
only a harsh rendering that makes me draw a breath,
full of cold air and light.