Photograph Albums

By George Kalogeris

“We finally got all of our family photos
Onto our home computer,” Quentin was saying,
Just as we entered the Asian fusion place.

And that’s when it hit me: all those leather albums
With their matted pages and bristly hides,
In their mundane way as archly ceremonial

As the Golden Dragon preening against
The restaurant window. All those cumbersome tomes,
In a decade or so defunct as the dinosaur.

But once their images have all been scanned,
Why should it matter? By then the cherished snapshots
Will have all gone into the world of light—

Or at least into cyberspace. Ancestral faces
That once unfurled from trays of salty water
As dark as Lethe, and then were pinned on strings,

Ex-voto like, and left to dry, will seem
A little less spooky-stern without the shades
Of their twentieth century negatives to haunt us.

And pantheons of illumination so vast
They promised we’d see ourselves reflected in
Their image forever—Olympus, Polaroid, Kodak—

Will shrink to the candle-watt stature of household gods:
Preservers of birthday parties and graduations,
Penátes of pointed hats and obnoxious horns.

Yet no chance then for an introverted child
To rummage inside a perfumed, rosewood drawer
Until he comes across those jet-black volumes

As neatly stacked as the folded sweaters. Then home
Alone, and as the velvet pages open
To crinkly photos like pressed flowers, that boy

Might spend a whole afternoon just leafing through
The bulk of the family gatherings. I stare.
And there they are, and he is, in plastic pockets.

Or fastened by all four corners. Or spilling out
Like a deck of cards that begs to be reshuffled.
An era no better or worse than now, but maybe

The last to be defined by a priceless, commonplace
Book designed for the usual, special occasions:
Christenings, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and senior proms.

But also vacations in Rambler station wagons,
And backyard cook-outs. Goofy mug-shots, haphazardly
Cropped as any iPhone, selfie mélange.

Compendiums as thick as the Yellow Pages,
And, because you could hold them in your hands,
Heavy as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

George Kalogeris’s most recent book of poems is Guide to Greece, (Louisiana State University, 2018). He is also the author of a book of paired poems in translation, Dialogos (Antilever, 2012), and of a book of poems based on the notebooks of Albert Camus, Camus: Carnets (Pressed Wafer, 2006). His poems and translations have been anthologized in Joining Music with Reason, chosen by Christopher Ricks (Waywiser, 2010). He teaches at Suffolk University.

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