It Has To Do With Silver Nitrate

bi Lily Parmar

It began from a notion of object impermanence; it has to do 
With silver nitrate. 
It has to do with exposure: 
A sheet waits quietly in the dark and for becoming 
Vulnerable for a split second, less—
It says it can keep what I saw. 

As a machine, it exists solely
On impermanence. 

I took a photo of Wellington Square
Because I went there every morning. 
Buildings by contrast have to do with permanence
And are a sort of fortification against ephemerality, 
A very good, a robust effort on behalf
Of a number of participants to create
A space wherein it can be pretended,
For a few hundred years, that we are invulnerable to the passing of the day, an occurrence which
We may nonetheless observe from the third 
– and do! –
floor bathroom window. 

I took a picture of your shoes in the common room 
and I drew it on an envelope that I sent to you in June. 

I have a photograph from the day you left your jumper with me
And I did not tell you until the evening.
In the morning I marched it around the Rad cam it
Came down as far as my knees –
At 2pm my parents came to take me for lunch because I 
was unwell, I took your jumper to Wolvercote, 
I ate in it from a patterned plate and 
gave it back to you when I returned. 

As machines go, this is one that needs impermanence; 
This is one that is insufficient. 

I have to remember how your hands curl like smoke in the air 
When you are speaking. 

What I am trying to say is I can see you in moments
But cannot keep you there. 
In every photograph you are 
Serene, smiling, a veritable image of photos of yourself.
In every photograph you are 
Absent, you are too serene, elsewhere,
In every photograph I can see how you lived somewhere else. 
A photograph is something I cannot use to remember you by. 

Still in one picture I can see your shoes and think how you 
Never tie your shoelaces, that you 
Are somewhere dragging two strings beneath your jeans 
You are laughing, probably — that is a sound that
For all the silver nitrate in the world I have lost, irrevocably,
I have lost it in a dark-room somewhere. 

I am stuck looking at pictures where I can see you already as a ghost. 

In every photograph you are
Serene, smiling, spitting image of the man you send inside 
When a camera or a room opens for a split second to let you in. 

You remain on the doorstep, 
Always smiling, always broody, always frowning 
Your hands curling like smoke in the air as you speak to
Passers by. 

I have looked for you in every photograph that you are in and I 
Find somebody else. I
Find silver nitrate and the particles of smoke that
You leave behind.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s