I watch a woman take a photo
of a flowering tree with her phone.
A future where no one will look at it,
perpetual trembling which wasn’t
and isn’t. I have taken photos of a sunset.
In person, “wow” “beautiful”
but the picture can only be
as interesting as a word repeated until emptied.
I think I believe this.
Sunset the word holds more than a photo could.
Since it announces the sun then puts it away.
We went to the poppy preserve
where the poppies were few but generous clumps
of them grew right outside the fence
like a slightly cruel lesson.
I watched your face, just out of reach.
The flowers are diminished by the lens.
The woman tries and tries to make it right
bending her knees, tilting back.
I take a photo of a sunset, with flash.
I who think I have something
to learn from anything learned nothing from the streetlight
that shines obnoxiously into my bedroom.
This is my photo of a tree in bloom.
A thought unfolding
across somebody’s face.
Copyright © 2016 by Ari Banias. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets. Ari Banias is the author of Anybody (W. W. Norton, 2016). He lives in Berkeley, California.
“I was thinking about our insistence on capturing and memorializing the present as a refusal of the present. And I was thinking about the emphatic little cliché a nature photo so often is, a cliché I find hard to refuse.” —Ari Banias