An Empire Of Kodachrome

 

We’d made things once, things of substance:

Copiers, straight-sixes for Chevelles, Novas, Impalas,

And tons of film, loaded into tiny Instamatics

Which accompanied us to everywhere and everything

(Unless they mystifyingly scampered away from pocket or purse,

In which case we drove, cursing and volleying blame to and fro,

Fifteen, twenty, maybe more miles to retrieve them

From the kitchen table or back of the toilet)

To document births and baptisms and weddings,

The in-betweens and hereafters,

(Renderings of children and dogs

Sitting under trees with blossoms of pink and red

The blooms implausibly bright, child and beast stolid yet smiling,

Or tableaus of tux-clad cousins and brothers,

Squinting blankly in the aftermath of a visual right-cross

Courtesy of the supernova-esque emanation

From the blue cube perched on the camera’s top)

So they would not be victims of the vagaries of memory.

 

All of that is gone–no, taken–from us now,

The means of production having embarked for Memphis or Mumbai,

Those things which sustained us now simply vestigial curiosities,

Like hand-cranked presses or ancient milking machines

We’d tittered at on long-ago school field trips.

The march of time and technology, to be fair,

But it has left us obsolescent as well,

Stranding us without context or clarity,

With access to neither advance or retreat

(The old photographs simply mock us now,

The red-eyed images fading to the soft tones

Of a rose at the end of its summer,

The name of the third man on the left,

Who’d worked on the line with us nearly three full decades,

Refusing to be conjured out of the thin air)

Leaving us diffuse and unordered

As the old and cracked negatives

Stuffed higgledy-piggledy between old snapshots

In an enveloped at the back of an old file drawer.

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “An Empire Of Kodachrome

  1. On and off now over the past several years, I’ve been wondering what ever happened to all those miles of film that vast multitudes of middle class families used to thread through their home film projectors, you know, the ones that looked like little Ferris Wheels when loaded, to be aimed at white sheets or table cloths pressed into service for the occasion. We never had one in my immediate family growing up, but some of our uncles and neighbors used to subject us to their latest family home movies when we’d visit them. They were so proud at the time. So where is all that film now? Did they simply toss it, and with it, all those memories?

  2. So they would not be victims of the vagaries of memory.

    The old photographs simply mock us now,
    The red-eyed images fading to the soft tones
    Of a rose at the end of its summer,

    A beautiful subject to write a poem about as most of us remember that old film and I wonder, if our grandchildren will be as forlorn when it comes to our SD chips …

    Again, I think your words are stunning and I love the image of an old faded rose…

  3. I had a Kodak Instamatic as a kid. I LOVED that camera! And it was so EASY! You just put the cartridge in there, and that’s all you had to do. It didn’t take a rocket scientist.

    Anyway, you have a nice way with words, W.K. I don’t need to tell you that; you’ve been told that a lot of times, no doubt.

    “We’d made things once, things of substance:

    Copiers, straight-sixes for Chevelles, Novas, Impalas,

    And tons of film, loaded into tiny Instamatics”

    I’ve thought about that a LOT. I can’t relate to this digital age. It’s just like the old country song that Bill Anderson wrote: “And I just can’t say ‘I love you’ to a street of city lights.” (Many people sang that song, “City Lights”. You can ENJOY a street of city lights, but you just can’t say “I love you” to one. Because they are not women, they are not people. I’m TRYING to make an analogy, here; probably not succeeding too well.

    And the “we” is important, too. WE used to make……. WE used to manufacture………. until the “free-trade” agreements wrecked everything, and everything was sent off to China. It wasn’t so long ago, my friend. It was less than twenty years ago.

    Am I interpreting this poem correctly?

    Glen

  4. Glen, one of the things I make it a point never to do is to say “this is what the poem is about”–we all have a different set of experiences and beliefs, and for me to say to someone “No, no, no–that’s all wrong” is, in my view, pretty arrogant; it sounds crazy, but just because you write something doesn’t mean you get to say what it’s about.

    That said, you’ve hit on something I tried to portray–the notion of how manufacturing has gone away, certainly, but also the notion of how we once made things that were tangible, things you could grab and feel; there’s something in that you can’t replicate in writing code or nano-technology.

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