No Pictures Please

 

The frightened braves proved right
who said no magic picture steals

my soul. Soon hungry billion eyes
drained blank the faces of our gods

sucked perfect features into masks
hard shells a finished spider leaves.

Gaze and brow, classic nose, lips
born legendary, divine enchanted

smile, these hollow casts preserve
first instant the mystery appeared.

We bled it public and impersonal
Polaroid in reverse, sharp image

fading, developing to blackest sky
no moon or stars, comet, meteor

a demon’s complete masterpiece.
Our famished stares scan glacial

ages, each crease a diamond mine,
make copies for repeat inspection

stoic or tender grin or wince scrap
we scavenge from a haunted house

studs remaining bones stripped bare.
Magazines’ sleek shots, wide Silver

Screen reveal invaded luminaries
ravished ghosts caressed and killed

kissed in dreams more credible than
pantomimes late channels provide

our restless Draculas, all reruns, ads
pitching a single mortuary. Close-up

profile, tracking shot, see once-self
disappear in dazzling flare from Oz

harsh spotlight meant to silhouette
attacking waves of heavy bombers.

Flashbulb, human flower both fade
as transparent heat bends, warps air

and owl’s hoot spoils last kiss, blue
embers growing a white fur of ash.

 

* * *

 

Nels Hanson’s fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart Prize nominations in 2010, 12, and for 2014. Stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Heavy Feather Review, Meadowlands Review, Ilanot Review and other magazines.

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