Picture Book in the Present Tense by Victoria Kornick

Picture Book in the Present Tense

If the photo has noises, they are shallow
as summer’s last insects or a faraway harmonica.
The blueberries are on the hill, the bay holds
the sky’s pink, slick as an oyster-skin, the house
is a rental and brown, but your flash knocks
its light against me and omits every detail.
My face lashless as the moon, eyes so hard
to distinguish from the rest, I could be staring
from my cheekbones or my teeth.
It’s as if the photograph were just words,
and missing most. So give me its illustration,
sketch our hands eating mussels,
the shells in our fingers like claws
pulling out the flesh of another by its tongue.
Black out the next page for night overcoming us,
and the next, go down to the stones and muck
of shore, close enough to draw the shells
where we threw them, their open, buttered mouths
washing back into the tide by morning.
Or write in more, tell me how I look:
wild, frightened, full of joy, the way I want you to.
Now give me a story the image can’t hold:
some sailors wear heavy boots to sea
because they can’t outswim a storm.
I’m trying to listen, but your voice unspools
and you don’t tell me what we need to sink us
when we want impossible things.

by Victoria Kornick

Editor’s Note: A picture is worth a thousand words (says the old cliché), but what if the words create the picture, and tell a story that hasn’t yet finished its journey? This poem is rife with questions and imagery. Sometimes the impossible things we desire are best described in verse.

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