Improbably Mixed

I don’t like to look at old photographs.  Thinking about the past, or the future, almost always makes me melancholy.  I try not do either.

Which makes my love of this poem a little unusual:


Slides of Your Life
by Naomi Shihab Nye
from Different Ways to Pray ©1980

What amazes me is how easily we do this,
like thumbing through newspapers
or catalogues of holiday fruit.
Here you are, age ten, your shirt torn,
no one lets you pitch.
The slides are improbably mixed;
between graduations and new Buicks
we have a woman’s breasts,
enormously white.
They are historical markers,
someone died here.
Another boy, your own,
raises his fist to the camera.
He is the wild animal dodging traps.
But then it’s parties,
dark laughter,
tables spread with food.
You click as if you’re still hungry.
Smiles reel and vanish, your wife,
a scarf knotted at her throat,
turns away from you in the park.
Your lives pull apart like old cloth
you mend and mend so long, then make rags.
I’d forgotten all this, you say,
unearthing birthday parties
and cherry blossoms
as if they are still happening,
on this wall,
in another world.

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