FILM COLOR, 1950
In order to create color home movies, families
could send their black and white film to
companies which would add color to it using
stencils and dyes.
As I watch my mother’s family,
on our living room television, I see the way
the man who took their movie changed them.
The man I picture set up
on a broad glass desk
lit from below. Covered with their film
it looked like a dragonfly wing. When
my mother’s family sent in their home movie, maybe
he bent over the images and slowly criticized
the limits of their instructions. How as
he sat down with the exquisite brush,
any gesture was a sentence.
I suspect the holes in
my memory are beginning
to seep. I know the eye
is used to seeing reflected light.
In his line of work,
missing details left entire
neighborhoods to be
rebuilt by his intuition,
his ideal color scheme,
as he added pastel dye
to the daily emulsion,
to the early ridges of my
grandfather’s fishing-line face.
One frame could contain
a house so bright
it was like a swarm of bees.
Or a house this color, right
here, the color that fills the house
with children, that keeps away
questions like who will break the bread?
Who will take up that worn flute?
The color that sets them up
to be remembered as they truly were.
When I watch my six-year-old mother,
her eyes are the wrong color. He is the keeper
of that memory, or maybe
somewhere in the infinite
expanse of space my mother
grows up in a house with blue eyes,
rides a tractor
and I watch. The man
creates my mother, I
color her life, and she goes on
exploding and contracting
so fast you could mistake it
for a single point of light.
—from Rattle #33, Summer 2010