Thomas Sayers Ellis



A little extra fake light won’t bother the sun. One
hopes, though, that the hot shoe is as trusting of
its fit atop the camera as the lens is of the tri-
pod’s sliding legs. One prays that there won’t be
a misfire, a waste of magic cube. Hot blocks full
of strapped youngins’. Strap is permanence, optic,
neither metaphor nor optional. In a wash of blur
a head nods and the metric foot freezes, f-stop.
Then the camera, hanging there like a face on a
chest, terminates the usual mask if you lift it or
bend behind it. Pictures are the arteries of poems,
not poetry, every failed flash representing the
funeral of more than one simile. Saying “cheese”
for your middle pass(age)ports forces a smile––a
likeness like, one that looks just like one that
resembles resistance. All similarity contains an
inner roll of negative insecurity, and a photo is
just one of many attempts to grasp trait. Shutter
as syllable, as nervous verb-center where a flat
haunted geometry keeps the stolen, keeps them
stay-put, governed by millimeter and fragment.
Gaze, surrender and frame. In a lens you can hear
the voiceless, their vertical non-verbal violence, a
naturalism no longer in fear of floods of light.
Contrast incorporates skin. Most word
documents kill color with linearity, often blaming
the tragic limitation on the cost of black & white.
An ill, afford. Is the sun help or hurt, riot or
revolt, citrus or “of how terrible orange is/and
life.” Only trust can force a face (worthy of
eternal stillness) from the old man and the
wrinkles he deserves, the matte finish of aging,
old contact sheets of prose. Prosody’s light meter
meters song, a view to find––its combined
gathered range, behaving as tension does forces
noise to focus. The stop bath, a strip club, every
officer (on duty) knows. How to shoot, how many
they shot––one need not check the flash drive of
victims. In the morning, mourning, the pain of
exposure. A portrait should pour, as if already
lyric from arrest, as if already rejecting the
boundaries of its own professional file. A file is
not freedom. The purpose of the poor is not to be
exhibited or buried in a pose. Portraiture need
not mug or frame itself: hanged, thumbed or
nailed. Memory is self adhesive not single-file,
not something you can lick especially not
in cases of police brutality. The profile, already a
poster, does not desire to be either form or matte.
IPhoto or in a Mac. Nothing encourages the hunt
like the word “Wanted” above a photo. One
immediately internalizes a fear, an accused
recognizing me and I recognizing him, pictorial
kin. Unlike the thin invisible traffic between
mirrors, the tension and relationship of the
exchange survives, refrigerated (like film) into
stare, into object, a new-noire-low-resolution, an
image-injustice. I know a few people who have
been shot, and a few people who have survived
being shot. If the body no longer develops, the
fire stops, cease picture. Today, writing this, the
chalk outline interrupting interpretation won’t
silhouette despite my use of vivid color. In the
morning, my borrowed Mamiya cannot wake the
empty space where the body was. Victims keep
vanishing––into the camera, into the canon. A
freezer frame of morgues. A funeral home
basement full of dark room chemicals. Another
heart, beating in stop bath, fills the graveyard
with fotografie.

...................If there is a point to shooting of more
service to the portrait than stare, brothers would
have stop smoking brothers pay days ago.
Wherever a Magnum photographer shoots, you
can almost certainly expect a war. Gallery'd
relatives gather nocturnal mourning. Here
Aperture, you forgot your Apartheid.

Thomas Sayers Ellis is he author of Whatever he is working on nothing else. The rest is past, post-pleasure, corpse. His past, those bodies have appeared in Poetry, Tin House, Best American Poetry and the Nation to name a few. He was born in D.C. and is obsessed with seeing, noise and Race, the running part of cultural confrontation and escape. That's why he is only called "Sayers" on Jean Toomer's 7th Street NW and in area Go-Go's. TSE teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York but Sayers spends his summers in Dee Cee.


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.


Read more by this author:
Thomas Sayers Ellis: DC Places Issue
Thomas Sayers Ellis: Audio Issue
Thomas Sayers Ellis: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue