Strip Poker

When Curtis photographed
the American West,
he asked his subjects to remove
hats, parasols, suspenders,
and other offending garments.
From machine-woven cloths
Curtis even removed labels.
It was a game of strip poker:
Let no modern intruder
obscure Curtis’ vision!

Like Curtis, I, too,
have desired my life to be orderly,
quiet and studied,
each pin in its place,
the moment for each meal
my daily work,
from matins to compline,
measured and predictable.

But disorderliness
nips at my heels,
the hamper bulges
with my daughters’
discarded clothing,
a maze of dolls and toys
greets me in the hallway,
and there’s no accounting
for the storms that cross
my daughters’ faces:
quarrels, first,
and then, fair skies,
and laughter.

But what is a portrait,
if not an illusion?
When is life still?
Curtis’ Indian, perhaps,
sat still for twenty minutes,
but the sun never subdues
the shadow that restlessly
reaches for the horizon.

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