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The Lovers in the Photograph

After a moment it became clear.
It had never been bound.
It wasn’t part of the book.
It just fell out that way, like a leaf
floating free in November.

And we scanned it, for information,
down to the nibs of our fingers,
the way as children we’d traced
the scalloped shorelines, peaks and veins
of every leaf we’d pulled off the trees.

What year, what language
were they speaking?
What colours did the labyrinth
of monochrome reveal?
What mystery did the grayscale

even out, between the whites
of his hands and the opaque shape
of the ink of her hair? What
city? (Before the war?) Was it
morning? Evening? Theirs?

There was a balustrade curving
upwards in the background, or
its shadow. Who had taken
the picture? Who’d kept it? Had it
all been beautifully composed?

But everything remained hidden.
There are people who don’t deserve
the truth, it seemed to say, and
maybe they were us. Would we
have known what to do with it?

And this is all there was,
a photograph, two lovers,
folded, once, by someone,
for some reason, into a book,
and when it fell, face up, at our feet.

Liane Strauss is the author of Leaving Eden (Salt), Frankie, Alfredo, (Donut) and, most recently, All the Ways You Still Remind Me of the Moon (Paekakariki Press).