Early Photographs of W.B. Yeats
People in old pictures don’t smile.
You’ll say photography took time,
and a smile is painful to hold.
Scan the face of Yeats, the jaw clenched,
the squinting gaze set on no one.
He won’t be moved. You’ll see this look
among children, too. To be seized
like that, alive, stalled precisely
in time, by an inhuman eye:
could you casually consent?
Held in your repose, you face Death
at its great ease—the poised spirit,
slower than you, and in no rush
now that you’ve paused, to see you go.
Joseph Chaney teaches literature and writing at Indiana University South Bend, where he serves as publisher of Wolfson Press. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including The Nation, Yankee, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Dogwood, Stoneboat, and Spillway. Some recent poems may be accessed online at Off the Coast, The Cresset, The Apple Valley Review, and Shark Reef.
The Ekphrastic Review
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