Lines from a Victorian Photographer
(Paul Martin, Yarmouth, 1892)
She lies in the sand as if she’d risen from it,
as if the sand had dreamed her dress
her pinned up hair, her sculpted hat.
He leans over her
having stepped outside his century
as if for a moment and travelled down
still bowler-hatted and immaculately shod,
his umbrella still perfectly rolled
and lying now beside her
to await the outcome.
He has conjured her maybe
though not so much as she has taken him.
The sand is in every fold of her dress,
she lies in the sand, the sand lies in her
and she is smiling: there is nothing of him
she doesn’t comprehend, the brim of his hat
knows more than he does
and travels farther.
Around them a world moves,
a procession of dark dresses escorting children,
boats conquering the foreshore,
a solitary chair
that has somehow wandered out
to take the air and suitably refreshed will return
to its great affairs.
Now they have fallen deeper,
they have disappeared into the mantelpieces
nightstands and abandoned chests, they are gazing out
like cathedrals of themselves
where the light took hold of them,
raised them up, wiped them down
and disposed them for the future
their true flourishing
where disbelieving the arrangement they tumbled
out of the frame to attempt
instead a fallen kiss, a dishevelment.