Before there were selfies we just had ourselves

One by one they led us to a room with a stool and a camera and a blank screen.

And took a DNA sample of our souls for a square in a frame to disperse on the winds.

And that small person smiling on the stool was me, a leaf snapped off a tree.

Is the soul of a tree the same, what’s beneath?

And if that’s true our souls need light and nourishment too.

And none of it fits into a frame in any real way.

No, the old school photos are just a sliver, a leaf in a book: a memory, hardly real.

The same as how we present ourselves, hardly real.

The trees will outlast us and the photos too. What about the soul?

Does it stay underground like the roots of a tree? Or drift like a leaf, to another form?

Or is it like Walt Whitman says, my soul is in all things, every blade of grass.

Or like Gordon Sumner, a little black spot on the sun today?

Mine is in a tiny box looking back at me: a sample is all we get to see.

Categories: poetry

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36 replies

  1. we are all but a speck, sting was right.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I go between moods when I look at pictures. I spend time bemoaning how now I am much more rounded than pictures of me as a younger, slightly less round person. As if my worth can be measured that way at all. By how many chins I didn’t have back then. And I think of my son, for whom digital images exist to capture every highway exit or transportation screenshot he happens to snap on his iPad while I drive us hither and yon. Where do these pictures go when we are dead and gone? What purpose do they serve in the drawers and albums that they live in until they are tossed into those winds of time?

    Apparently you caught me in a philosophical state of whimsy today. Good on you for your timely arrival.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “Man is of soul and body, formed for deeds
    Of high resolve, on fancy’s boldest wing
    To soar unwearied, fearlessly to turn
    The keenest pangs to peacefulness, and taste
    The joys which mingled sense and spirit yield.
    Or he is formed for abjectness and woe,
    To grovel on the dunghill of his fears,
    To shrink at every sound, to quench the flame
    Of natural love in sensualism, to know
    That hour as blest when on his worthless days
    The frozen hand of death shall set its seal,
    Yet fear the cure, though hating the disease.
    The one is man that shall hereafter be;
    The other, man as vice has made him now.”

    That’s Queen Mab, I think, from Shelley surely. I never liked Shelley, still don’t. I read him very young and he irritatingly comes to me. Memory is certainly an instrument of the soul; its natural language. I, for one, love the sentiment of being outlasted and the silence, almost worthless, almost sensual, that penetrates all that is left to age. Shelley was wrong in at least that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Being outlasted! That Shelley quote is something. The dung hill of his fears. And on and on. Can you imagine me trying to read that in the drive thru of some vapid fast food place in the suburbs just now? What’s become of us Shelley? Maybe what we’ve always been in a sense. God I bum myself out, as we say here. Thanks for that gem of an insight JM. — Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Still got it, buddy, that relish flip thing over your forehead

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My vote goes to Mr. Whitman.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Alas, it’s clear my giant live oak tree is NOT going to outlast me … I am faced with executing it …
    So I’m maybe reading this a little differently than intended … but I’m inclined to think all is temporary and yet all is a never-ending bit contributing to a collective everlasting whole. Pictures just can’t capture such.

    Nevertheless, I’m a picture-holic, and I thoroughly enjoy looking backward at facets of my years past (both humans and places/plants/pets) so I keep taking photos.

    And I thoroughly enjoyed this post – thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jazz! Glad you enjoyed this, thank YOU. Yes we executed some trees this year too; I thought the same when I wrote that (they’re actually not ALL going to outlast us) but ha, taking some license too. Love the way you put here so eloquently yourself, the never-ending bit contributing to a collective everlasting whole. That’s wonderful! Thanks for reading, for this especially.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, I was admiring the relish slip thing too, that hairstyle still passes mustard.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m guessing that Gordon Sumner is not the former Australian rules footballer who played with Collingwood in the mid eighties. Regardless, I’m with Walt.

    I liked to slip photographs into my ‘Melway’ street directory: it was so nice when they fell into your lap when you were lost or just wondering how to get there.


    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for mentioning the ‘King of Pain’ – it eventually prompted me to read some of Sting’s lyrics, mainly to see if they were as pompous and full of cloying spirituality as someone claimed in a book about the world’s worst lyrics (which was amongst the top Google searches for Gordon Sumner lyrics). I would not be that harsh.
    Also browsed a few WW poems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, “world’s worst lyrics.” I’ve loved the smart quality to some of their songs I’ve studied, especially that King of Pain one. I like the idea of sneaking poetry into pop, almost like disguising it and hurrying it in through the back door unnoticed…


  10. Hi Bill,
    I remember the distant, enigmatic, yet nonetheless attractive Christine H saying how much she liked Sting 30 odd years ago. Looking back, I surprise myself that I never listened to the music. A time crowded with too much work and too little sleep I suppose. But not a time without highlights in a very long working week, like the drunken scot calling out to me “On ya, Jimmy” as I road off to work around 5am on a Sunday morning. And a baby son at home, almost sleepless for the first year. No time for The Police.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that’s a nice peek into your past David, thanks for that. The Police coincided with the arrival of the Sony Walkman as I remember, and their Synchronicity cassette was the first piece of music I listened through that. It represented newfound independence, being roughly 13 and able to walk wherever I wanted with music. And soon thereafter to do so with thrift store costs and cigarettes, and learn the art of brooding. Which is no art at all, but you have to work through that to get to something better I suppose!


  11. Yes, the Walkman was a great innovation. Pity I missed that particular music period. Not necessarily representative, but corny enough to make me laugh now, The Swingles cassette and Walkman come to mind. A very different purpose, almost anti-brooding?
    Oh well, it’s midnight here so best not turn to thoughts of why.

    Liked by 1 person

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