“It’s too late to correct it,” said the Red Queen: “when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.”
–Through the Looking-Glass
Neither he nor she says a thing. She’s sitting, posed. And he’s telling
The seconds that make light and silver nitrate into something not painting,
Not sight. Into a kind of world. Into a kind of double of this world, only
Where color becomes lost, where her pale lavender day-dress will become gray,
Darker gray her exactly flattened aubergine hair-bow, as though in a pencil
Sketch. But that can never be colored in. She sits so still that she can feel,
Laced tight in its ribcage, her heart, also telling: telling the times that she’s
Done this before. That he’s done this before – made her into a Chinese
Girl in shivery silks, a beggar-child, a May-queen with a hawthorn crown,
The leaves in the print shining black: a kind of world. Eighteen
Since May, she wonders if, for this photograph, she’s herself: not even
Props – no fern spindly in its pot, no lapful of black cherries. No straw sun-
Hat to slant beneath her curved fingers as she lay pretending to sleep:
He’d told her to. Just as she’d told him to tell a story during the rowing-trip
To Godstow. He told it, Holsteins and bored hayricks heavy against the river.
Was she that girl then – the girl falling slowly into a low hall of locked doors?
Or the girl in the slim boat, the girl sitting still as he made a world around
Her, or a kind of her, of this world? Neither she nor he says a thing, but behind
Her head, cracks pock and chip and split the wall. And forever will: The wall
Could be remade, could be replastered, repainted olive or Prussian blue or teal –
No matter, in that double, not painting, not sight. She, too: she’ll be forever posed,
Forever uncolored. Unspeaking. Waiting for him to tell her into a world. Fixed.