Other People's Photographs

You try to get out of the way,
but the agile young man
who crouches against the brick step
with the black box sees only,
in front of the rhododendron,
the young woman with black hair.
Three months from now, at home
in Japan, when the snapshots come back
in envelopes, they’ll hardly notice
you in the background, never
articulate why they choose
a different shot for the scrapbook,
putting you away, so that,
fifteen years later,
the two children who today
are yet to be conceived
can come across a glossy print
in an old carton they know
they’re not to be playing with,
under their grandmother’s obis
and the stained tuxedo.
“The American man in the sweater
that looks like a bathrobe,”
they’ll whisper to each other from time to time, knowing what
they mean without telling
themselves what it is, until
one afternoon the boy,
the elder, on the way home
from his violin lesson, will die,
his coatsleeve caught on a hook
protruding from the subway train,
the sinfonia concertante
crumpled under the wheel.
His sister will live alone with
what you were to the two of them
and grow up to be acclaimed the greatest
film director of the first half
of the twenty-first century,
embellishing all the while her memory
of your knowing smile, how you embody
a freedom she only dreams of,
and your funny sweater, how the sleeves
can fill her with sadness.
Then here and there in the corner of a screen
you’ll begin to take on lovable disguises.
Richard Newcomb