c o n v e r g e n c e:
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EDITOR'S CHOICE: cynthia linville's

Catherine Fraga

Mylar Woman by Myles Boisen
Mylar Woman by Myles Boisen

             "And so they are forever returning to us, the dead."
             — W. G. Sebald (from The Emigrants)

by Catherine Fraga

My father, his Polaroid camera in hand
actually said "cheese" and the machine
whirred, expelling a print, negative
still attached. He checked his watch, shaking
the covered snapshot as if it was
a thermometer and then
at the right moment
with a surgeon's delicate hands,
picture and negative separated
in a single motion, revealing
who knew what?
Mystery clung to each impending image,
the camera conjuring up pictures of what was
right before our eyes,
right before our eyes.
Taking turns holding memory
as it eased into focus
reflecting our imperfectability,
reminding us by contrast
of our humanity.
Glossy talismans in unreal colors
as ephemeral as breath on glass.

Now, after six decades, the SX-70
is gone, despite incredulous shutterbugs
mourning its demise, posting pleas
on SavePolaroid.com.
Digital cameras allow us to discard
whatever we decide is
not quite right, unlike the power
of Polaroid to salvage forgotten lives
and the finality of a blemish.

Just like the remains of an Alpine climber
frozen until a glacier released him after 72 years—
a few polished bones and a pair of hobnailed boots,
the Polaroid may return
having migrated behind the refrigerator or
forgotten, clipped to the back of the Buick's sun visor—
a grave eloquence,
startling in its honesty.

             —Late summer, 2008

by Catherine Fraga

Preecha, the tour guide, hears their
disenchanted sighs, tourists nearly
mourning, their bodies straining
toward shore, so many sights to see
in the ebony landscape of evening
but nothing they desire
only the fluorescent lights of hotels,
restaurants, highway overpasses.

He wants what they want:
the mesmerizing dance of fireflies
a magical gathering of blinking lights
thousands decorating banana trees
lining the shore.

Preecha is reasonable. He knows
the disappearance of fireflies does not
match the tragedy of polar bears
and Siberian tigers.
Yet he keeps rowing, sweat
pooling beneath his eyes, the ache in his shoulders
dull and determined
until two miles farther he
glimpses a shock of lightning bugs
undulating, the rhythm of his childhood,
of memory, and the passengers
hushed in thanksgiving
a temporary victory over progress.

             "Maybe I enjoy not-being as much as being who I am."
             — Stanley Kunitz

by Catherine Fraga

This is not an accident:
I find a tooth in a pocket of asphalt
winking at me like a new quarter and
as I bend to claim it I hear
my mother's voice like a familiar blanket
settling in my brain saying it's a fine line a very
thin fine line between the lucky and the
not-so-lucky because this tooth
large adult dull-white
has a story and it begins with a woman
in a budget motel just off some highway
room 16 at the far end of the parking lot boasting
a view of the Beacon station she is wearing
only underwear only a faded mint green slip she leans
up against a quilted dingy beige headboard
a plastic cup of ice pressed against one eye
the eye that is swollen shut with purple bruises
some game show is on the television but she is
not listening the painting above the dresser
reminds her of a jewelry box her aunt gave her
on her ninth birthday painted with white and
yellow daisies a field so thick with color you could
probably hide from someone for a long time
which reminds her to check the door once more
yes it's locked presses a finger into the bloody
hole in her gum lights another cigarette
this slight shadow of a woman whose life
for a moment has postponed my own.

Catherine Fraga photo by Anita Scharf

Catherine Fraga
Photo by Anita Scharf

Catherine Fraga is author of a collection of poems titled, Running Away with Gary, the Mattress Salesman and has been published widely. She is currently at work on a collection of prose poems. Catherine was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry and last year was awarded a month long writer's residency in Portugal. She has taught writing at Sacramento State University for the last eleven years and has lived in Sacramento since the early 1980s. Catherine has recently begun to venture into visual art — collage and mixed media — and is enjoying the layering of words and images.

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