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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Photobooth

It's good to be back. My thanks to those who visited during my absence, and especially to those who left comments. I will get to all as soon as I can - inbetween catching up on a backlog of chores, of course! We did eventually escape the nice doctors with their nasty procedures and made it to Guernsey for a few (warm and sunny!) days. Whilst idling on the beach and the cliffs above, it struck me that I have my own version of the seven ages of man. The first age was characterised by building sandcastles on the beach, the second by beach cricket, the third by swimming. The fourth age was back again to building sandcastles, though now pretending that the building of them was not for myself, but for a small son or daughter. Ditto the beach cricket of the fifth age, I suppose, though a distinct lack of breath must have made it obvious that it was not my first choice of activity. The sixth age took in cliff walks. During the seventh age you write stuff like the following - though you might think it has much in common with sandcastles. How many similarities can you find?

The Photobooth.

The man in the photobooth was two,
who knew a thing or two, who said:
these pictures of me
are new of me,
Yet every hue and line is true.

You delude yourself, said the twin in his skin,
your lines and hues
come from dust in the air,
from the fog and fug and mud of the world,
the jog and the smudge,
the fudge to begrudge
the insights that you claim.

Not insights as such:
these stills of me
are as Hubble shots
of a galaxy.
They show what we always knew to be there,
but amplified and rearranged,
with emphasis and focus changed.
They resonate to strains that were laid
before the world began.
An essential part of the general me,
though a stateless me, a refugee,
at odds with the world,
they're at home in this photobooth.

There is no home in this photobooth.
It and the world are one.
It has no special measures or meanings or truths,
its rules and the world's are the same:
"Keep still, turn that,
put your coins in the slot,
do this, not that,
keep your head in the center
and all in the frame..."
It's wise in the ways of a broken world
and replicates what it knows:
so the cabinet judders, the body corrodes,
the shutter sticks and the flash explodes.
A lightball hits your eyes.

Which all translates as the power of life!
Just look at those overlapping planes!
See the broken lines and the jagged truths,
the liveliness that the booth exudes!
The energy that it gives to its art,
The meanings that come from the booth!

There are no meanings to the booth
and none that it can give.
Like the world in which we're cast to live
it's one great accident,
a mischance, an oddity, not profound,
whose images strike one as sound,
of impeccable provenance.
But art must follow intent.
An image possessing a sacred power,
has that power invested by man,
it's an image to keep pristine, not exposed
to whims of the passing hour -
or debates about what it means.

So that's that!
The world stays flat,
any roundness might strike as obscene!
The booth has been firmly put in its place
that raised its art from copying
to inventive genius,
from colouring between the lines
to a new sublimity,
from drudgery to grace.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Hi Dave! You don't necessarily have to do as you are told in the photo booth. The seventh decade means you can "wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled" or "wear purple" or even behave as in your first decade and pull faces, stand on your head - anything you like. As long as you beat it at its own game. Then you are - metaphorically - building your own sandcastle. Regards

hope said...

I still see my Grandmother saying with a smile, "80 is such a wonderful age!" When I asked why, she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and replied, "It doesn't matter what you do, short of murder. People just smile and say, 'She's 80 you know'. You can get away with anything."

I think I inherited just enough of her feisty nature to get down in the sand and build castles no matter how old I get. Okay, so eventually I might need some help getting up.

Thanks for the mental vacation Dave. :)

Dave King said...

Weaver of Grass
You are not confusing me with one of my characters are you?
Trouble with sandcastles is that someone keeps washing them away.
Thanks for the comments.

Dave King said...

I'm not quite there yet, but 75 aint bad - and I still have hopes!
Funny thing, I don't want to build sandcastles any more: I want to build passage tombs, tunnels and motorway networks. Now, what do you make of that?
(I did see a sandcastle competition with all kinds of fantastic structures - and that has given me lots more ideas.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is really good stuff!

I'm coming back for more..


hope said...

I'm sure some Psychiatric type would say you're building a way to escape with your tunnels,etc. Me? I see that as a "boy" thing to do...you guys liked to build useful stuff to connect your various worlds. I suspect little girls when I was growing up built sandcastles in hope Prince Charming would be somewhere around the corner. :)

Conda Douglas said...

Good to see you back with such a strong poem, Dave. I especially like the first and last stanza, good progression. Sandcastles, hmmm? Perhaps because neither the photobooth nor the sandcastle possess a home or have special measures, etc.?

Dave King said...

Never did take to sandcastles in a big way. Built them because it was expected of me, kept my parents happy - they could imagine that I was normal for once. My best memory of a sandcastle is of a rather large bully who built the biggest on the beach, knocked down all the others and then stto up on his crowing I'm the king of the castle! I was quite small, but kicked a football at him which caused him to lose his balance, and chanted Get down you dirty rascal!

Dave King said...

Thanks for that and for the welcome back. Do you know, I hadn't been very happy with the last verse (I rarely like my last verses!), but you've caused me to look at it again... and, yes, I think I'm happier with it now, so thanks again.

Dave King said...

Sweet Talking Guy,

Thanks for that.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, the last line gives a great touch to the poem.
Best wishes, Davide

Lucas said...

I think this poem is full of fascinating tensions - covering the tight rope from the sublime to the meaningless. I really like the lines:
"there is no home in this photobooth
it and the wlrld are one"
The phtobooth is definitely a sustaining image.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

In the Firefox browser I'm using that Wowzio widget sneaks over from the margin and covers some of the text, like so:

The first followed a description of the effort involved in the installation XXX exhibition at The Edinburgh Festival,
XXX she complained XXXal were most of ... ETC

(To find out what was missing I highlighted the text then copied it to a separate file.)

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed the rhythm in this poem particularly. I like your version of the seven ages,,

Dave King said...


Thanks for that.

Dave King said...

thanks for the feedback. I am beginning to wish I had spent more time on the poem. Maybe there is more to be got from it than I had realised.

Dave King said...


Sorry about that, will try to correct. Thanks for pointing it out.

Dave King said...

Crafty Green Poet,
That is reassuring, I had wondered if perhaps the rhythm was too insistent.

Dave King said...

Have made the widget the smallest possible. Let me know how it appears on your browser.

Jim Murdoch said...

My daughter gifted me a book of photos dating from the earliest days of the photobooth until about the 1970s. It is a fascinating book. Virtually no words - the odd thing scribbled on the back of the strip - and I pick it up every now and then and it never fails to get a shiver out of me.

Dave King said...

The sort of book to drool over. I cna look at such things for yonks.

Lucy said...

Remember 'Amelie Poulain', her boyfriend who collected the discards left under photobooths?

I love the idea of you building passage tombs and tunnels, it's spot-on.

S.L. Corsua said...

I've enjoyed the slant rhyming here and there -- gives a readable flow to the piece. And I've especially liked the fourth stanza -- made me think, do a mental somersault of sorts, of simplifying rules to live by. To the oldest creature in the world, to be photographed is no quicker than a human's life passing by, I suppose. ;)

Thank you for dropping by my site. Cheers.