Issue > Poetry
Robert Cording

Robert Cording

Robert Cording is professor emeritus at College of the Holy Cross. He has published eight collections of poems, the most recent of which is Only So Far (CavanKerry Press, 2015). New work is out or forthcoming in The Georgia Review, New Ohio Review, The Hudson Review, Image and The Common.

Two Photographers

I. Josef Sudek's Egg

After the war, still lifes.
An afterlife with objects—

his subject often an egg.  
Or a glass of water.

Or an egg next to a glass
of water. But mostly an egg.

On a table divided by
a diagonal of light and shadow.

On a saucer, the egg
a gnomon shadowing the line

between before and after.  
Or cradled in a bowl

placed by a rainy window—
a gazing out into what is

near and far away.  
Sudek must have loved

the egg's solidity,
its common dignity,

the marvel of its particular
selfhood. Something

with clear outlines.
Something to look at,

to draw in one's focus,
to quiet the mind.

An egg. Never a metaphor.
Never a fresh start.

II. Transparency

(Vineland photographs, Diane Arbus)

So unlike ourselves, these men and women
who never create themselves for others.  

They look us directly in the face and we look away,
chilled by what's errant—

the way their joy is seamed with the witlessness
of their grins, their mouths jam- or lipstick-smeared.

Gangly and shabby in those mismatched, out-of-date,
ill-fitting outfits we recognize as our own

cast-aside hand-me-downs,
they stare at her camera with an alien poise—

and Arbus, transfixed, returning their look,
sights both the near-grace of their not knowing,

their utterly transparent lack of self-regard,
and how the rest of us, even if we tried to be

this naked and vulnerable, could never escape
the awareness that has us looking at them

as if we were relieved for being who we are,
then apologetic for that failure in ourselves.


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