I look intently at the black-and-white photograph
Taken almost one hundred years ago,
And her dark eyes, deep-set and alive with mystery,
Look back at me,
And I fall back in time and in love.
Even without opening the book, I know
She is a poet. I am drawn and entranced
By the delicacy of her countenance.
A flowered hat covers her forehead,
And so her eyes, dark like the ocean at night,
Lie under shadow. Her nose is small
Like the nose of a sylphlike creature, and it magnifies
The purity of her youthfulness. Her lips are closed,
But only just; they are not pursed tightly shut.
They are almost open, as if she was on the verge
Of opening them to speak, but decided instead
To remain silent.
There is an air of silence emanating from the writer
In the photograph. As her eyes look out at the photographer,
Her other self gazes inward, towards her own heart.
Looking out, she looks within, and the silver necklace hanging
Around her soft pale neck cannot be as precious
As the buried riches that wait to be discovered
I look up and listen.
The fan is still spinning,
The cars are still zooming up and down the street
On this warm Friday night in early July
In this coastal town in the Northeast,
Where I exist now whether by chance or by destiny.
I exist now, and here, but as I look down at the photograph,
As I am drawn down once again into her dark eyes,
I imagine myself one hundred years in the past,
Knowing this woman, and loving her,
Looking into each other’s eyes for hours in silence.
Seeing her for the unique individual who she was, and is,
Seeing even the parts of herself she hated,
But with the painful aid of self-awareness,
That ruthlessly incisive knife, could not help but see.
I love what you hate in yourself, I would have said,
I love the parts of you that you think you cannot love,
I love you in the depths of your unknowable silence,
And I love the sound of your voice
When it is strong with the energy of intense passion,
When it is heavy under the weight of melancholy and sorrow,
When it is anguished with the endless turmoil of your sensitive heart,
And when it is light and vibrant with a joy as expansive as your deep-set eyes.
I love you, diarist I will know only through your words
And this century-old photograph, and I would love you
Even if I never opened this book.
Through your words I will know and understand your heart and your mind,
But through your ancient eyes, I begin to understand your eternal soul,
I seek to understand it like I seek to understand my own,
Which I do not own and will never fully understand.
I see you, I hold you in mind, and I love you,
Dark-eyed woman I will never know.