- Muybridge’s Clouds
andwant— truth swallowed
in approach. [End Page 56]
His lens opens and sky burns away. No limit, no shade. Just the color of a crater left by footprints in mountain snow or the bright blindness of a just-fired gun, the sky in early photographs appears white. In his darkroom, a library of negatives, he matches the right shape for the right sky. Dark labor fills his frames: the rake of them, the wane and flock, monger, belt, and coif, the rack and chalk and ward—all the forms like rock, like weight, like menace or consequence. One day imprints the next. Here, a past is no proof. He takes time apart, like a watchmaker, and rewinds the sweep back to what he saw, or thinks he saw, what belongs above cliffs and canyons to mean west or landscape. I want my own archive of sky. A catalog of change. A new Alexandria of impossible formations: fluffy guillotines and children falling up wells. I want—to strip the past back to bone. Back to milk-tooth blankness, the white of terror to be one man in one body, white as the truth-telling lie, and begin again. We turn from emptiness, that swallowed silence hung above like laundry, and find comfort in shadowed riot and beautiful uncertainty. Dangerous weather calls. Hard clouds in the horizon of the photograph approach. A storm to break the glass. [End Page 57]
joshua rivkin’s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. He has received a winter fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford, and a Fulbright fellowship to Italy.