A Photo Found in Black and White

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.28.40 pmCoincidence did not cause
the young man’s cheek
to share the curve of mine
in his gray, buttered face.
His finger-combed hair
wet with grease,
his white, Sunday shirt
folded one flip from his wrists
as he squints, grins, leans
against his 1938 Buick
beside a skimpy ash tree.

The picture’s slanted—
like we should expect
that inky car to roll—
the bulky lens too heavy
for the ageless friend
who posed that grainy world.

Or maybe it wasn’t
the Kodak’s weight;
maybe an instant flashed
where the nameless cameraman
glimpsed his friend
with future, spotted wrinkles,
creaking knuckles,
a still and silent phone,
a sandwich chewed beneath the drone
of telecasts for baseball games;
and that man’s fingers

But without knowing why,
in that moment the camera slipped,
the world tilted,
and that faceless photographer
carved from time
the car, the tree, the young man—
a hand hiked upon his hip.


The featured image, ‘U Will B Someday Soon 11 11’, was used with permission of artist, Robert Alan, a mixed media artist from New York City.  

13 thoughts on “A Photo Found in Black and White

  1. hinsenkamp@gmail.com'
    Luke says:

    Great poem, Jake!

    I love imagining the backstory of an image and searching for the photographer’s impact on the photo. The photographer is always an important part of the photo; there’s a reason they/we sometimes pretentiously prefer to refer to the act as “making” a photo over “taking” a photo. A good photographer is never JUST pressing a button to freeze time in the frame. It should always be deeper than that, and you capture that well here, even if it’s an emotional lapse and subsequent slip of the camera, rather than artistic expression, that is being explored. 🙂

  2. ainsley.kelly.4@gmail.com'
    Ainsley Kelly says:

    I loved the detail in this poem and the triangulated perspectives of the speaker, photographer, and the subject of the photograph. Cool play with perspective and time shown through vivid images and a voice full of character. I’m so glad I got to read this!

  3. rhteeny17@gmail.com'
    Rhonda says:

    You are able to take a simple picture and analyze it to a greater meaning. The simplicity of remember there’s another person in this photo — the photographer — is often forgotten and you’ve woven him/her gracefully into the story

  4. Danaargyle@yahoo.com'
    Dana Doolin says:

    I always enjoy reading Jake Teeny’s work. He has such great insight and compassion in his writing.
    Can’t wait to see more.

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