Techniques Of The Observer - Poem by John Sarvay
At the dawn of enlightened idleness, men built
the camera obscura: boxes of glass and wood
that caught ethereal motion and recreated the world
in miniature, casting it to see.
This commingling of sunlight and science
brought them slight steps closer
to their ambitions of reproduction;
they pried Eve free with a paintbrush,
casting her down to be captured,
and then hung.
Boxes became rooms. For a price,
crowds would gather on the Isle of Man to titter
unseen near a lovers' path; in Edinburgh
hidden children spied with delight
as their parents walked the royal mile.
Couples in Central Park watched
as light begat life.
No one thought then to damn the men
who polished new lenses, the men
who so suddenly changed
how we saw who we were.
The box is a metaphor for the voyeur;
something learned. Our own reflected
memories seem small
in the lingering sharp light,
in the poorly refracted stills
that emerge as small noises, compacted
moments of almost silence:
knees crashing through grass like an angry ocean,
and the muffled sting of bees in clover,
and the frightening force of being alone.
Ribs intact in the time without dreams,
before there was a past,
before the juice of ambition.
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