Friday, September 03, 2010

Lines from a Victorian Photographer

(Paul Martin, Yarmouth, 1892)

She lies in the sand as if she’d risen from it,
as if the sand had dreamed her dress
and elaborated
her pinned up hair, her sculpted hat.

He leans over her
dark-suited, composed
having stepped outside his century
as if for a moment and travelled down

still bowler-hatted and immaculately shod,
his umbrella still perfectly rolled
and lying now beside her
to await the outcome.


He has conjured her maybe
though not so much as she has taken him.
The sand is in every fold of her dress,
she lies in the sand, the sand lies in her

and she is smiling: there is nothing of him
she doesn’t comprehend, the brim of his hat
knows more than he does
and travels farther.


Around them a world moves,
someone else’s,
a procession of dark dresses escorting children,
boats conquering the foreshore,

a solitary chair
that has somehow wandered out
to take the air and suitably refreshed will return
to its great affairs.


Now they have fallen deeper,
they have disappeared into the mantelpieces
nightstands and abandoned chests, they are gazing out
like cathedrals of themselves

where the light took hold of them,
raised them up, wiped them down
and disposed them for the future
but missed

their true flourishing
where disbelieving the arrangement they tumbled
out of the frame to attempt
instead a fallen kiss, a dishevelment.


Mark Granier said...

'She lies in the sand as if she’d risen from it,
as if the sand had dreamed her dress...'

A Sand Venus, lovely.

And thanks for the fabulous photograph, one of the best Victorian photographs I've seen. And it's remarkably modern; akin to the work of Cartier Bresson and Andre Kertesz:

The Cat Flap said...

Thanks, Mark. He is a very interesting photographer -- some more images here and elsewhere on the net.
His stuff wasn't much appreciated at the time, as you can imagine:
"....two principal exhibition societies, representing the official photographic sentiment of the day, were not encouraging towards the type of subject which I was then taking. There was more outlet in the suburban clubs, but even there many members regarded some of my studies as rather infra dig or even shocking. They felt that a plate demanded a noble and dignified subject, a cathedral or mountain."

mrknaughty said...

nice work

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