Meditation on a Photograph


Here it is, the street where that murder took place. Recognize it? I don’t either, but something in my bones tells me this is it. It looks so innocent and pre-war. Yes, it looks (to me) like 1927. Don’t look too closely at that surrealistic automobile,, lurking in the left vanishing point, or the worse one hiding behind the fence. They can’t help being there. It’s like the innocent bystanders who didn’t manage to get themselves indoors and out of sight before the  police arrive. The sun is shining on this spot but it’s an ironic sun. This street speaks of exit. This street says, too late, too late. And it isn’t even willing to say what it’s too late for.

This is the kind of scene the crime leaves behind. That is,  not streaked with blood, but after the blood has been all tidied away. This is a street trying to assume its innocence. That picket fence alone is worth a thousand lies. That spot of sunshine, pretending, perhaps, to be a sit-in for something else.

They once lived on this street, you know. I mean, the victims. It was green then and banked with flowers. Automobiles grazed its pleasant lea. Don’t look too closely into the windows of those houses, crouching behind the fence, or staying — far left — out of the picture altogether.

The impulse is to put names to the gangsters, but only stereotypes come to mind. Jay Gatsby could have been here. He would have been proud of this neighborhood. Or ashamed.

Am I saying nostalgia is murderous? I may be. Once you get going with automatic writing, it’s hard to say what’s going to come up. This photograph is like that. It’s only a blink in time. It’s only a little place, a spot on street that doesn’t even want to say whether it’s city, suburb, or rural (stops to take a look). Look how big those trees are! Whatever this place is, it’s been here for a while. Those trees — how heavily they hang their branches — have been looking down on the multifaceted transgressions of human beings for a long, long time. And when the sun shines on this road, this street, if that is what it its, it’s because they let it. They have been laced through and through with the bothering of civilization, the telephone lines, the electric wires. And they have witnessed.

With any luck at all, they will still be here, after the murders have been forgotten. After it’s all been tidied up. But luck, that’s what we’re all hoping for, right?

[This has been a spontaneous writing exercise in an enterprise called Writing 101. No humans or animals — or trees — were harmed in the making of it.]

One thought on “Meditation on a Photograph

  1. Was there a murder here? Is murder on-going ? Is murder like a spirit that haunts a place before as well as after it has taken place? Is murder an appearance rather than a phenomenon? During WWI a Russian soldier went mad and said over and over “Murder is being committed in the world.” The insane don’t lie, they just can’t cope with the truth that is so painfully obvious to them.

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