• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 09
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The Reproduction

You handed me the photo—sepia,
tattered—of the young woman.
I asked, Is this of your grandmother
or great-grandmother? You said, No,
it’s me. About ten years ago. But it
recalls an image I saw in an old family
album. I never understood that picture.
What were they doing to that woman?
Why were her eyes closed and what
were the patches at the far corners of each
eye and across the bridge of her nose?
I was riveted by her—was she the subject
of a treatment or an experiment? Was
she, like me, an artist? You said the original
had burned in the fire in Richmond. No one
had known who she was—even your mother
and your grandmother, who had preserved
the album, didn’t know. You needed her
back, so you put yourself in her shoes.
You wanted to feel what it would be like
to be posed, unseeing, then to see
yourself in her place. Your picture,
you said, was a choice. You wondered
whether hers had been and, if not,
whose. It dismayed you, that mystery.
Not to know. But you felt across the ages
her imagined presence, the possibilities
and directives, the bidding and decision,
that brought her (then you) before the camera.