|First Place: Peter Bloxsom|
© Damir Alter Matijevic
read by henry quince
A worn but artful trick of movie-makers:
colour for here and now, the present action,
but monochrome for times remembered. Fakers
who touch a nerve of truth. A slow subtraction
goes on; the film of memory runs forever
but loses, dropwise, year by year, some fraction
of its colour. Mind’s deep shadowed river
holds all the drowned selves of your existence.
But see them as they were when lived in? Never.
Maybe a flash: conjured by blind persistence
up to the sepia ripples and your shame,
with eyes of water from the deep-down distance,
appears a vivid child that bore your name,
drawn through the dark to meet what it became.
Rose Kelleher Comments:
I can practically hear the grumbles: “Figures she’d pick a sonnet!” Well, this poem hooked me and I was helpless to resist. It complements the photograph beautifully; in fact, I get the impression it was written specifically for this contest. There’s a school of thought that ekphrastic poems should be able to stand on their own, and I think this one can, but I’m more intrigued by the idea of poet and photographer collaborating to create something new.
This poem captures the spirit of the photo, and I mean “spirit” in the ghostly sense as well. The child is one of the adult’s many drowned selves, dredged up from the deep, dark river of the past. In the photo there’s something Chaplinesque about him, and the poem starts off with a reference to movie-makers. And notice the just-right word choices: “dropwise” expertly links us from the first image, the film of memory, to the watery imagery that follows. The child has “eyes of water,” suggesting tears, and is an “it” rather than a “he” or “she,” which adds to its strangeness, its distance from us. It “bore” our name before it was “drawn through the dark” to be reborn. The poem is stirring and mysterious, but it was written by a clear-eyed thinker who knows a thing or two about artful tricks.
It’s also a well-crafted terza rima sonnet that makes deft use of feminine rhyme. I mention this last, as if it were incidental, but who am I kidding? That’s part of its charm. Not because I think all poetry must be rhymed and metered; not because of anything I think, for that matter, but simply because the resulting poem sounds lovely (and this is Soundzine, after all). I could sling some bull about how the “flowing” rhythm and “rippling” rhymes match the sense, but the truth is, they give me pleasure on a much less cerebral level than that. It feels good to read these lines aloud. I love lolling luxuriously in all the alliteration. I love the way “river” is rhymed with “never.” There’s no tick-tock here; this poet, whoever he or she is, is clearly an accomplished metrist who knows how to use enjambment and substitutions to good effect. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to call attention to such fine work.