My Father’s Photography

by Rebecca Ruth Gould

My father liked to photograph the snippet
—not the fullness—
of the instant. On weekends and holidays,
we built archives in our basement.

Our darkroom chamber
became an alchemist’s paradise.
Ammonia bleached dark film light.
His gloves were pulled tight.

My plastic-clad wrists were taped
so fluids wouldn’t seep in
& damage my childhood skin.
I imitated his every movement.

When we finished, he lifted me
high. I danced like a ballerina,
climbing into the skies. Trouble only came
when I grew up & stopped copying him.

His skin darkened into a sepia tint.
His fists clenched.
Question authority became my mantra.
I no longer admired him.

The negatives began exposing
what he didn’t want to see.
As I approached adulthood,
my father stopped practicing photography.

He disappeared into unknown territory. His art
grew thin. His bones grew weary. He sold his
passport, became a non-citizen,
hid from the camera as if it might curse him.

I think he must be practicing necromancy—
splicing a partial truth, mixing in a fantasy
—blocking out every inconvenient reality—
in some foreign, mystical country.

Rebecca Ruth Gould is a poet, translator, and scholar. Her poetry collections include Beautiful English(2021) and Cityscapes(2019). Her translations of Georgian literary modernist poets have appeared in Pleiades, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Tin House, Seizure, Prairie Schooner, and Guernica. She is poetry book reviewer for Harriet Books and teaches at the University of Birmingham. She posts video book reviews related to poetry on the YouTube channel Poetry & Protest.