Self Portrait, 1939, Delayed Actions

By Eva Bourke

What’s beneath the chemicals – gold
chloride, gum Arabic – the gloss,
the yellowish cardboard mount on which
the signature is scrawled?

See the girl in the white dress leaning on the parapet
of the bridge, how much longer
can the image protect her? If she took
one careless step what might happen to her?

See how the wind already lifts
her summer hat, how she holds
onto its rim – will it be blown next minute
across the river to the other bank?
 
Does chaos govern everything beyond the clean
white edge? Will the hat vanish
forever, the girl be spirited away
by gradual silver halide oxydation

and take her place among the forgotten?
The photographer herself died after a long illness
due to darkroom toxins.
 Just there where a bird takes off

from a tree on the left and where the roots  
 branch out in the dark there’s
a barely discernible figure removing
staples and nails from the frame.

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