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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 10, 2020

March 13, 2020

Janet Kolstein

Conrad Heyer (1749-1856), The Earliest Born Man to be Photographed (in 1852)


He’d heard of the thing
and eyed images born of the contraption.
It wouldn’t take long for his own aged self 
to replicate on the silvered plate.

The man who’d crossed the icy Delaware 
with the Father of Our Country
had orbs reminiscent of the General’s.
His great, beaked nose had grown craggy with years,
his mouth indignant at the loss of teeth.

Maybe, it had been enough to see himself
in the mirror of clear lakes,
or to face his murky reflection on grooming.
He’d looked inward, and knew his character
forged with the gravitas of nationhood.

Changes come to those who live long lives,
some small, some monumental,
some bringing awe and trepidation.
As a farmer, he knew how crops grew from seeds
with the sun and the rain that nurtured his fields,

and that all living things are pitiful
when Death comes calling,
but this new machine, a camera,
miniaturized and memorialized
the very shades of his being,
and, in the beam of his eyes, 
brought forth a new way of seeing
and remembering.

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