Two Photographs

B. H. Fairchild

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Winter light,
a white frame house filling the background
as in a dream – the bare branches
of a cottonwood, a piece of sky.
In the foreground, my father
as a young man, and a car, a Packard.

His body drapes the body
of the car, back pressed against the door,
elbows rigid on the window’s lower edge,
leg bent, polished Florsheim resting
on the running board.
He holds a cigarette with a particular grace

or perhaps feigned casualness,
smoke curling up along the right sideburn.
The hair was slicked back only
moments before, and the head is bowed
slightly as he gazes almost
shyly into the eye of the shutter.

Winter light. It rises from his white shirt
in the way of Hopper paintings,
the hard, floating light.
It is there, too, in the second photograph
where I lean against my car:
cigarette, sleeves twice-rolled

to where the forearm’s lower muscle
just begins, the hair sleekly dark,
a thin wire of anxiety
disturbing the eyebrows. White house,
tree, sky, this odd, surrounding bareness
that is everything I want to leave,
and already I see the highway narrowing
to the vanishing point
past the GANO grain elevators
and Methodist church spires until Kansas
is only a sea of brown fields
diminishing in the rearview mirror.

The light in its long evolution toward
my father and his son:
the eye of the shutter opens,
two white shirts burn in a black box,
burn still under lamplight,
and a car approaches the horizon.

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