Now, when I look back I no longer see things centre-frame. The view has slipped—stray threads dash across the film like floating motes on a cornea.
The people or the way they stood or walked or spoke has warped, lost focus. Instead, I’m seeing their ankles, the painting on the wall behind, background mountains. I’m noticing a sky I don’t recognize or a bedroom turned inside-out by a new perspective.
In the photos where my mother was a child I’m noticing how the kids along the edges refused to pose. My mother is offside, in transit, on the way to somewhere else, has stopped awhile, but these other kids are uncontainable by the frame. They run, cutting their heads off as the shutter closes, making a frame. Or loom where they stand witness, gone blurry with a lack of sobriety.
Now, when I ask my mother’s portrait a question she spills out the way her heels turned or how the gardens across the cul-de-sac look lit aflame by dusk. She smiles, knowing it’s no use, all she can give me is dropped ash, a half-turned face, a girl’s neck, the door closing in a room, not to forget (inescapable) the buffet of the camera’s light in a mirror like a minor explosion.
David Mohan has been published in PANK, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, Matchbook and The Chattahoochee Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.