Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
So the photographer came in breathless and took seven pictures,
After rigging his floodlights, and arranging us in a group,
All the wrong people together making believe do something
And the newspaper had all our names right the next morning.
What They didn't get into it was a tall girl in the back row
Thinking, Let me out of this, Let me out of this, a girl there
With shining hair in the picture, and sweet mouth and shoulders.
They wouldn't know there are things you can't take pictures of,
you can't tell anybody about. The way her throat lifted.
The fine-bones in her hands tight under the delicate warm palms.
Not my name she thought, oh not this. They don't t get in pictures
Why the big dark boy at the last minute moved one place to the left.
Or what the girl thought about that, the one with the heart-shaped
Warm clear face next to him.
You'd never know, reading the paper,
How many copies were as good as sold when the camera flash-clicked,
You'd never guess the letters stuffed with clippings, the telephones
Saying, Did you happen to see? You'd never think what the
Thought tiredly, secretly, peering at the print.
A camera doesn't lie,
So they say, so they say, but that's the commonest lie ever told,
It lies. It tells beautiful cruel lies, tells lies kindly, it lies
Easily for art's sake, lies daily to make the daily news, and it lies.
Also it tells the truth, It was a camera got the Graf Zeppelin burning,
And that spattered Chinese baby alone crying in the bombed street.
Black, white, so the camera sees it. Shape, shadow, mass -
The shutter takes quick breath and a breathes out what is there.
It took in the aircraft carrier Lexington hurt, empty, and sinking.
A crouched soldier hugging his small son at the door, a grab-shot
Three dead marines tide-rolled half-under the Pacific beach-sand.
But the girl I am thinking of was not beautiful in the picture.
She looked rather thin, plain, tired, not anyone I loved.