The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 5, Number 1, Page 27
Winter, 1980

Old Photographs

R. B. Smith

Professor R. B. Smith of the EWU Department of English has written the poem "Old Photographs. "The poem captures well the process whereby photographs become old and also historical as the "Decades are filed in slippery mix." The Forum frequently publishes old photographs. R. B. Smith's poem reveals with fine wit and cogent insights some of the drama behind such photographs. Smith has also written a number of prose sketches of Mineral Washington published previously in The Forum.

Jumbled together in a cardboard box,
They make no orderly sense at all.
Decades are filed in slippery mix;
Uncertain landscapes the only rule,
Less credible than Sherwood Forest.
Continents overlap, are mis-named.
"Who in the hell was that?" we ask,
As burly men are nervously caught.
Against some strange and shingled wall
Is our girlish mother in a flowered dress.
And father is there in the acetate swarm,
Leaning our way in that fading print
Like a gaunt bird who falls from a limb.
Some of the snaps are pale and yellow
Though a few are recently black and white.
But most are old, hardening to views
Of the cliché Nile. Grandparents rise,
Waiting for the sharp magnesium flash
To gloss their images vividly bright.
They seem to know that time must be seen
Through some chink or keyhole place
Where the seasons come to speedily go.
Grandmother stands with her dutiful hand
Resting on Grandpa's best dark serge
And both are staring the camera down.