The Last Picture Poem By Philip Dacey

The Last Picture Poem By Philip Dacey

“This is the last picture of me
standing,” my friend says, pointing
into the album during my visit
to his apartment where everything’s
within easy reach for someone in a chair,

the center of the floor open
as if for a dance, and all I can do
is nod and stare, caught
in the headlights of those words
as simple as ice on a road’s
curve, as penetrating as the sound of metal
rolling over on itself like tickets
in a thunderous drum of chance.

In the photo he’s a lanky twenty,
more than half a life ago, his legs
slightly spread, taking the measure
of the earth, a smile that speaks
the sun at noon, though he does not look down
to see himself shadow-free
in every direction.

Simplified to black-and-white,
Leo isn’t looking anywhere that day except
out at me, who’s been exposed,
the one sitting by choice.

Afterwards I will imagine other
last pictures, for other lives—
this is the last picture of me
believing in God, this is the last picture
of me making love, this is the last
picture of me writing a poem—
and albums will collect and fill
with last pictures, a great and drifting snow,
while the photographers of last pictures,

those self-renunciatory saints,
work in obscurity and the knowledge
that a last picture’s never
a last picture until it’s too late.
For now, though I’m still marveling at how
the plainest English—quiet, matter-of-fact,
a mild disturbance of sound waves
between pictures of parents and sisters,
farm-scenes—can shrapnel through the air
and make spines anywhere send a blizzard
of electrical information up and down
their long and living strands.

I am afraid to stand up, or try to.
I start taking pictures in my head, fast.
I pose with Leo for a picture
we both know is already developing.

The Last Picture Poem By Philip Dacey

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