Diane Arbus Prowls Our Street: poetry

by Eugene Gloria

Diane Arbus is studying a couple

looking at her photograph,

“Girl in a shiny dress.”

She’s reading the couple’s faces,

the curl of the corner

of the woman’s mouth, the knit

of her brow. She wants her to nod

in approval; no, she just wants

them to feel something and forget

where they are. But the man wears

a smirk, then remarks, “Even I

can take this picture.” She plucks

out her pocket-sized notebook,

flips to a fresh page and scribbles

what he said. There is a war.

My oldest sister is still a virgin

and vaguely resembles the woman

in the photo “Girl in a Shiny Dress.”

There is a war, and when

both sides decide to call it quits,

there will be a U.S. tally of 58,000 dead.

I am ten, bone-spare and formless,

mimicking a new dance. The exhibit’s

theme is the “New Social Landscape.”

In the Summer of Love

Diane Arbus prowls our street.

She buys a postcard in the Haight

and joins the antiwar movement.

She writes to a friend in London

about her show at the MoMA

and in her diary confesses

that she adores freaks. In her

Moleskine notebook, she records

another photograph of a man

right out of a Flannery O’Connor

story:  a portrait of intensity,

a face fraught with good intentions.

“Boy with a Straw Hat Waiting

to March in a Pro-war Parade.”

Around Christmas, “I Second

That Emotion” is the most popular

song on the radio, and Smokey

Robinson’s porcelain voice testifies

to keep us where we were,

a sound telling us that he’s

bitten into the moon’s dark

flesh to hold the stars

in their place. And all of us stayed

put in our small but brilliant

constellation, managing to escape

unscathed from the camera’s long gaze.

Originally appeared in Dogwood Volume 5: 2005

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