Chad Parmenter’s poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, AGNI, Harvard Review, and Black Warrior Review, where one won the Third Ever Poetry Contest. They are forthcoming in Laurel Review, Spillway, Raintown Review, and Little Patuxent Review. His chapbook, Weston’s Unsent Letters to Modotti, won the 2013 Tupelo Snowbound Chapbook Contest, and will be published this year. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.
Weston’s Unsent Letters to Modotti
Nowhere is the where we were—where I write you, at the end of the lens arc light makes in my—never our—darkroom. This is a negative of us—an Edward and Tina the world will never see, never developed into a picture. This was us in a more intimate fiction—the you made by my gaze, the me you made with yours.
But a body holds no story.
I’m erasing it from the glass face—a new window for my studio.
My gaze sits in it. And I can’t find you.
But in that wash of the loss of us, what lushness. The music fused it, fused us in just that thought-dissolving kiss that brought me with you into the country you made yours—where desert night, its obsidian wind, ran a phantom skin down my skin, and the cities glittered even in the noon sun—where water’s spirit haunted their searing air.
You wrote in a letter I got this morning, “the pattern will be clearer to us I think after.” It will be, and we will remember us as photograph, memory as dream in frame. And if you could take me—into just that mask of just that past—I would not need to feel it leaving me.
Your blank look was too much a mask—too much soul in it broken open. You, naked, were like broken panes—in you, the lie of Cubism came home. The conceptual would end when you laid there, bare, your look a hood—the face of fetishization.
But it was the look I gave you—all I could take of you. I take it back.
We were never in the same nation—even in Mexico. I lived in one defined by my art—you have your beloved people, the ones your own gaze shapes among the Riveras and their companeros. I could get lost in a clay vase—you in the war to save its maker.
I know you still go to the bull fights—I know because I need to believe you’re still you. And I would ask you to shoot—with your best lens—the Graflex—the white bull’s dying moment—but it would not be cold enough for me.
There are no years or hours—and so there is no vacant space—in still film, in the image that fills it, in the vision that it incubates with its chemical will. There is no incoherence of many points of view—as Eliot says of Bergson’s verse-nervous words. These are the ones I believe I love: Love is making artificial objects—tools to make tools.
In the studio, as a tool of my own sight, I know no buried life. There is only form, that can’t dance, lovely in its fixity, as free of need as me.