Family Negatives Under Microscope

— Chad Abushanab

I’m focused on the space inside your eyes—
first pupil, then iris, now cellular disruption—
in search of some clear catalyst, some reason
for these scars, for this crooked helix on my chest.
I want the DNA for empty bottles.
I need to know what made your cruelties grow
like starving cancers loosed upon my body.
I’ve scoured the whole of the frame for it, pushed past
the edge of every family negative
in hopes the secret’s hidden, like a code
between the plastic and the acetate.
I stare for hours at a single portrait,
deducing from a smile the hell behind your face.
At times I think I smell the whisky sweet
perfume of you, as though each image captured
something of how you lived, how you breathed.
But then each clue turns out a part of me:
a hair, a thumbprint left while leafing through
the pile of specimens, a flake of skin,
a scratch I made in haste. It always seems
more me than you, more you than science, more science
than love. Naked and pinned beneath the lens,
these negatives are artifacts of this
and more, but oftentimes exhibit none,
as though our cause was always out of frame,
begging for exposure, for the light.


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