Category Archives: Writing To A Photograph

Writing to a Photograph: The Coin

Another edition of my Writing To A Photograph project:

The Coin

I’m heading out, going for an early morning walk. Too early for the tourists and worker bees, and the sad people that can’t stand the rain. Looking back, I see her rolled in the sheets and blankets, a tornado gone horizontal, a sure sign of fitful sleep. 

Padding out the door, I turn and walk down the hallway, an enclosed alley minus the smell of the garbage cans, the piss. That’s awaiting me below—and I like it. Look forward to it. Haunting alleys is a compulsion of mine—the urban geographer, the detritus hunter. Our culture, the bits better not displayed. Our decisions: things kept, things discarded.

I duck out of the alley, I’ve seen enough for today.

There is a coin in the middle of the street, its features softened by a thousand hands. A car has ground it against the rocks in the asphalt leaving tiny gouges, ending in burrs. I can feel them against the pad of my thumb as I wipe the water off. I rub against the coin, again and again, the burrs tugging at my finger prints. If they were wire, would my fingerprints vibrate—make sounds? 

Slipping into the apartment, I stand motionless for a moment. From where I’m standing, I can see into the kitchen. The faucet is dripping, a reliable indicator of the slow decline of the place. The water is landing on a plate, but it isn’t ringing—a ting ting ting one might expect—the plate has a crack, ruining the harmonics. The sound doesn’t fit my ear, the drops overlapping into a middling thrum; clipped, truncated, a stilted version of what could be. 

I scan back and see her still on the bed, but she’s rolled onto her back. She’s nude from just above mid-hip. Her left arm cocked acutely with her hand just above a hip bone, pushing up through the skin. Her hand is bent like an A-frame house, the finger tips applying pressure. Her right hand has a grip on the sheet, the folds of material between her fingers spreading out like an alluvial fan.

I notice the same thing I notice every time I see her sleep: her eyes are ever so slightly open, a slight split. A gap. And as usual, I’m unnerved. I slide over a chair and get close, peering intently, always expecting to see the pupils move, dart at me, locate me in space—either accuse me of watching a private moment or pinch closed to shut me out… But they don’t. They just rest there, unseeing, occluded and fixed.

Also posted in Flash Fiction Tagged |

Writing To A Photograph: And It’s Plastic

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.


We are the lone customers and the inside of the bar is—what’s the right word? Placid.

It has its quirks, this bar—along the lines of a badly designed David Lynch set. The chairs for one. The fibers are pinkish when you look at them closely—not too fine, sort of like not-so-curly pubic hairs. They get all over my shirt. Goddamn it I say under my breath, I just had this shirt cleaned.

The bartender nods and before I’ve even sat and turned to face him, reaches behind for the bottle without looking: two fingers of bourbon, one perfectly square bubble-less ice cube. Even the ice cubes aren’t real. I mouth a bit of the whiskey and inhale air into my mouth over it. It burns. I close my mouth and swallow. She’s looking at me intently.

I awaken, and as usual, she is sprawled next to me, twisted up in the sheets, taking up two thirds of the bed. My head is resting in the crook of my forearm and my right eye is scrunched up in folds of skin. The taste of bourbon on my tongue. I can’t really focus. She’s left one of the blinds open an inch and a slat of sunlight is cutting across the floor. It’s hitting just the curl of elastic on her panties and through my blurry vision it looks like a sea shell—the lip of a Conch I think. Her panties are laying on the floor where I tossed them the night before after my ritual of slipping them off of her and covering my nose and mouth with them and breathing deeply. She smells like the sea. Scent of the sea, sea shell. It makes perfect sense.

And the chandelier—who the hell ever has a chandelier that size hanging in a bar this small? I once reached up and touched one of the prisms to feel it—and it’s plastic. It doesn’t make that gentle tinkling sound of crystal when a draft from the air conditioner hits it—it makes a flat plastic sound, a clacking noise; a noise like someone sifting through plastic cutlery in a wooden drawer.

I roll up on my elbow and take a deeper look at her face. I’m so close I can see my breath move the faint hairs on the side of her cheek. Her lips are slightly parted and one corner of her mouth is damp. I get closer. I take one of her lips between my teeth and nip. She jerks her head and her wide eyes narrow down to slits. There is a tiny red fleck of blood forming. What the fuck was that for? She shakes the hair out of her eyes and climbs over me to the floor. She scans the room then picks up her panties. She deftly steps into them and looking at me warily, goes into the bathroom and pulls the door tight.

The carpet is some sort of cubist nightmare—and it’s the kind of material that gives one wicked carpet burn. I briefly fantasize about grinding an enemy’s face on it hard—leaving an angry red welt crossing down the forehead, swollen eyelid, side of nose, mouth. She asks me what I’m thinking, but I’m not willing—or too ashamed?—to tell her. She turns her head back to the mirror behind the bar and takes a sip of her wine.

There’s nothing to hold onto, it’s all facade, colored bauble, lacquered over. Wallpaper over the piss stains. Curtains that cover up a bricked-over window. Gaudy appearance over substance. Immediacy over intimacy. I roll over and push my face into the pillow—her scent is already fading. Soon she’ll be a disassembling memory, pieces sloughing off, unravelling, unhinging—like a toy I once had—carried around, played with—but never loved.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: Snow Like Razors

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.


I want coffee, well, no, I want clarity. The coffee can wait. I turn the key in the deadbolt so hard that I briefly think it is going to snap off. Wouldn’t that be a relief? Never go back inside that white cube of an apartment, locked out forever. I punch the lobby button and three floors down step out of that little rattletrap of an elevator, the fluorescent bulb flickering ever so slightly, making a faint buzzing sound. I despise that sound—and in my inner ears I can hear a squeak as my jaws clench even tighter. The front door is partially frozen closed, which I’m not expecting. Instead of opening with a push of my arm, it sticks. My head hits the glass. I spit and rub the ridge over my right eye, a comma-shaped smudge left on the door. Outside. Into the snow. The snowflakes are swirling around, eddying around the building. They aren’t soft like a tissue, they’re hard and coming down fast, biting into my lips like small razor blades. I pull up my scarf, snarling underneath.

Her warm breasts are pressing into me below my shoulder blades, her arm around my torso, tucked between my ribs and the mattress. She kisses the base of my neck. I had to bring it up. I couldn’t let the goddamn thing go, could I? She retracts her arm and turns her head down into the pillow, her hair brushing across my back. I drift off to sleep and don’t even feel her get out of the bed; don’t even hear the door click shut.

My scarf blows down around my neck and I get hit with a face full of razor blades. I leave it down, squinting my eyes to slits. A tiny, sharp snowflake makes it between my eyelashes. It hits me square in the eye. My head jerks. No use wiping it out of my eye, it’s already melted, running down my cheek, a tear I can’t seem to cry on my own. I’m stumbling a bit as I can’t really see—can’t see the pain I inflict, can’t see the suffering I cause. The snow is getting deeper, I pull up my scarf and squint again.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: At The End Of The Alleyway

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.

Photo of Alleyway

I’m walking down alleyway after alleyway, but I can’t seem to find her door. Left, then right, then another goddamn left. Nothing. Do I go back to the bar? I turn around and there: the gas main on the corner painted yellow, the dumpster to the right, down a few paces. Recognition—like an old memory pulled suddenly from a dark recess. A few steps and one more left; I breathe out and calm myself.

I’ll knock on her door and she’ll open up and invite me in for tea. There is a lot you can learn just by sitting over a cup of tea—not talking—with someone. Then maybe I’ll understand why she left. Why she left me in that bar toying with my drink.

I turn the corner and there isn’t a door, there’s a goddamned vending machine. I stand in front of it, uncomprehending.

The harsh light from the bulb over the door to my right is shining on me—translucent, eggshell cracks riddling my shadow on the wall to the left. The bulb is moving in the breeze, my shadow swaying faintly. I’m fragile and I’m slipping.

I turn and make my way back past the dumpster and gas main. Tomorrow night, yeah tomorrow night—bar, gas main, dumpster. I will find that door.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: Shards

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.

Photo Writing Shards

A shattered TV screen, an image still playing across the shards. I’m awakening but the dream is still painted on my mind’s eye. I’m desperately trying to keep the fragments in a coherent whole. She’s walking down an alleyway in a seedy part of town, I’m desperate to catch her—I must tell her something—but my legs move as if underwater. Anxiety at not getting any closer to her, anger at my recalcitrant legs. I try to call out, but choke.

My consciousness hasn’t yet burned off all the sleep, but I’m losing the dream. It’s pulling away—the harder I try to hold on, the more awake I am and the less I have ahold of it.

I’m awake and the dream is already clouded over—details smear and pieces evaporate. Irretrievable. I swing my legs out of bed and think Now what?

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: Theater of Happiness and Sorrow

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.

Photo of Theater

We used to go to this little theater—no more the 30 seats—but a few blocks from our apartment. We always sat in the same seats, rear of the theater, stage left. Her with her little snacks valiantly trying to open them quietly, me with a bottle of beer, snuck in in my coat.

They showed smaller budget movies, stuff that the cineplexes would pan, and an odd mix of theater. But usually we saw art flicks which afterwards we would have a vigorous discussion about their merits, or lack thereof.

There was a marionette show, which I found tedious, but she enjoyed immensely. She could sense my boredom and her hand slipped down between my legs and held me warmly. That was all it took, nothing more. We even saw an X-rated movie once—me faintly interested but her eyes clenched shut almost the entire time.

Now I’m sitting here alone, the seat next to me empty. My seat seems less comfortable, the temperature isn’t quite right, the lighting is off—I’m blinking a lot in discomfort, shifting in my seat. A verse from the Conquerer Worm by that sage Edgar Allan Poe pushes into my mind:

Lo! ’t is a gala night

   Within the lonesome latter years!   

An angel throng, bewinged, bedight

   In veils, and drowned in tears,   

Sit in a theatre, to see

   A play of hopes and fears,

While the orchestra breathes fitfully   

   The music of the spheres.

 I sigh.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: Flotsam or Jetsam?

Another photo for the Writing To A Photograph project. Photo provided by my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.

photo of flotsam or jetsam?

I used to own this neighborhood. Now, I’m just a too-old underling. I’m not exactly sure why the new, younger mafia kept me around. Probably because I know this place like no one else—I can still see deep into the cracks and crevices, see around corners before I get to them, see into storm grates and watch the past slide down them. I cock my head and hear things: stories, dirt, facts.

But I don’t get the same respect that I once did. I used to peer into any of these shops and receive a downcast set of eyes in return; now all I get is a glassy-eyed, monochrome look like I’m a ghost, a denser bit of air. They still don’t trust me, but now they don’t fear me.

Flotsam or jetsam, which am I? I can’t seem to ever remember which is which—one is accidental, one is intentional. Mmm, flotsam, that’s it.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

Writing To A Photograph: Threshold

Another image from my friend Jade in Japan. My writing to this photograph below.

Photo of Threshold


Every day. I get on the subway, but I can’t get off at that stop. The door opens, but I can’t move—a wall, a chainlink fence, barbed wire. Yeah, it’s in my mind; no, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. Around the loop I go and get back off at the subway station near my home. Tomorrow. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction

New Project: Writing To A Photograph: Desire

My friend Jade is living in Japan and teaching English, we met in Laos. She came up with a great idea: we swap photographs and write about them—no specific form, it can be a poem, essay, etc. I minored in writing in college, but visual arts took over after that and I consider myself quite rusty with words. So, this will be a good exercise to get those writing skills back up to snuff. This project may go on for years, it may only be an occasional post, It’s basically an experiment. So, without further ado, here is the first image she sent and my short essay below.

Photo Of Desire


I’m old, but that feeling never quite goes away. It starts in my groin and then the heat travels up and fills my body. When I was young, it happened in seconds, an intense burning—an intense desire. At points I wished I had a switch that would just turn it off, turn it down even. It was all encompassing. I’ve moved states because of it, I’ve gotten in fights because of it (oh, just a little blood), and I’ve made bad decisions because of it. As I’ve gotten older, it has mellowed, it’s not so sharp-edged and jagged. It doesn’t affect my mind as strongly as it once did. I don’t mean to denigrate it, but I do appreciate the level that it is at now—warmer and rounder, and slower and tempered. It no longer makes me push, run hard through things, twist until I’m ready to burst. Desire. I don’t regret my past with her now, but I do appreciate that now it is a slow dance with her, a caress, a brushing of lips on her skin.


Also posted in Color Photography, Flash Fiction, New Project