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Tag Archives: camera

found poem: my camera

found poem: pale


1980s DAK self sketchMy mother wanted to be a photographer. Not as a profession, but literally to “take” pictures — to bring home with her the abstractions of color, line and form she saw everywhere.

She struggled with one camera after another. My father patiently showed her and wrote cues to help her remember the sequence of buttons. He gave her his own camera, which looked so easy and which she was sure she could master, and when that defeated her, he found her a simpler one. But that, too, was just an incomprehensible box of buttons that she eventually stuck in a drawer, giving up the idea of taking photographs.

Dorothy would undoubtedly have found a cell phone equally daunting, but she would have loved the idea of selfies. In fact, she created hundreds of them, with pencil and brush, pastel and ink. If they did not provide the instant gratification she hoped to achieve with the camera, they left a record of how she saw herself, stripped of artifice — a harsh beauty seen through an acute and unforgiving eye.

her rules…

cameraMy mother’s insistence upon her rules had little to do with safety or civility. It was as if our house was monitored by some invisible watcher, some arbiter of gentility, and we must constantly demonstrate what she imagined was an upper-class suavity. Posture, tone of voice, command of silverware and napkins were essential and symbolic. We must be vigilant to enforce the coveted status she attributed to “people like us.”

People like us? The small family of a hard-working middle son of a poor Hungarian rabbi? She was the watcher, afraid that our sloppiness and inattention would disqualify her in the race to grace.

Her measuring extended to her friends, acquaintances and even relatives for whose admiration she would hunger before executing her harsh censure and cutting them off. Nor were my friends immune, their manners examined and disparaged to highlight my own poor judgment in choosing them as friends — in having friends…other than her.
security camera