A Poem For Thursday

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 16 2014 @ 7:37pm

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“An Archival Print” by William Stafford:

God snaps your picture—don’t look away—
this room right now, your face tilted
exactly as it is before you can think
or control it. Go ahead, let it betray
all the secret emergencies and still hold
that partial disguise you call your character.

Even your lip, they say, the way it curves
or doesn’t, or can’t decide, will deliver
bales of evidence. The camera, wide open,
stands ready; the exposure is thirty-five years
or so—after that you have become
whatever the veneer is, all the way through.

Now you want to explain. Your mother
was a certain—how to express it?—influence.
Yes. And your father, whatever he was,
you couldn’t change that. No. And your town
of course had its limits. Go on, keep talking—
Hold it. Don’t move. That’s you forever.

(From Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford © the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted by kind permission of Graywolf Press. Photo by Ethan R.)