Michael Sarnowski


[Photography]is an enduring record of many things seen only once in a lifetime and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.

—George Eastman on the Brownie Camera, 1900

As I look at a black-and-white photograph

taken from the backseat of a late ‘50s Chevy,

the driver turned and speaking to the passenger

riding shotgun, one hand on the wheel, a tear

in the fabric of the roof, I think of Eastman.

He made a single frame, the exposure of light

to film, beauty bathed in bleach, resonate.

His imagination grew like early cameras, opened

like an accordion gasping air, pulled into the shape

of a pyramid turned on its side. He made a living

of pausing time, of making instants infinite. He took

memory from darkrooms to billboards and the walls

of our homes. Yet, he too knew his limitations.

To my friends:My work is done. Why wait?

Today I walked through his house, a movement

like a stop bath over a print, to absorb the images

that surrounded him. An elephant head

mounted on the wall. Tusks that reach out

like calcified arms. Floral patterns shaped

from wrought iron, black vines crawling

up walls and over archways. Ashtrays

crafted from animal hooves. Tabletop flowerpots

crafted from animal hooves. An endless archive

of prints and films. Open gardens cut with brick walkways,

an explosion of red shades. Transmission fluid. Dried blood.

The throats of orchids in bloom. 

Michael Sarnowski earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where he was a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. His poetry has appeared in Potomac Review, Memoir Journal, Spry Literary Journal, and Foundling Review,among others. He has been a Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Kingston University London, a writing resident at the Vermont Studio Center, and currently lives in Rochester, New York.

Illustrated by Meghan Murphy.

Feeding Time