Kodak Carousel

by Lucian Mattison

It hums, illuminates the wall
and a beam of bedroom dust
between. A flick of the thumb
triggers the tray’s lurch, shuffling
slides, my hitchhike on 35 mm
film to a Kodachrome finish.

In the frame is my father,
some colleagues on a sailboat
in Vietnam, maybe months
before the banks evacuated
Saigon. At first glance,
this image strikes me as more

honest, truer to life than what
I live day to day, as if the earth
were painted in a different light
forty years ago. I can almost
put myself there, stand in
my father’s place, though

I can’t summon vibrations
from distant shells that should be
pulsing through this image.
I’ve never even flinched
at rifle crack. It troubles me
that I gild his photographs,

lacquer what I can’t comprehend.
The past is Vietnam and every mass
grave previous—it’s happening
upon a charred body,
castrated, hung like dead fruit
from a peach tree.

Should we cherish draft cards
or wish for protests, so we can watch
our own police force
open fire on a student body?
Isn’t that also the past
that we see in photographs,

when we wish we were any place
than where we are today?
I find I remember too easily
that which I’ve never seen, forget
the superstructure of this world
only appears to float of its own accord.

At such a distance, years become
meters of ocean. They distort
the piers and pylons that disappear
into the water below us,
propping up everything we see.
Alone in my bedroom, I drop

each frame in the carousel
and I still yearn, ignite the acids
of my stomach. I curl my fists inside
boxes of slides and marvel
at how the dead can still rise,
and carry me off on their shoulders.

Lucian Mattison received his B.A. from University of Florida and is currently enrolled in the creative writing MFA program at Old Dominion University. He was the runner-up in the 2013 ODU Poetry Prize and his poems can be found or are forthcoming in Barely South Review, Digital Americana, Literary Juice, and Marco Polo Arts Mag. In his spare time he enjoys cooking and playing backgammon. He can be reached at lucian.c.mattison@gmail.com.