It's a negative. Something I've held onto
for a long time. I've kept it. Treasured it.
I think I know what it's a picture of,
it's hard to tell. I know it's time to do this.
I've been putting it off. If I don't
do it now, this negative will haunt me
for the rest of my life. So I'm taking it--
taking it to the dark room.
The door to the dark room revolves in
single confessionary shoot. Only
one may enter at a time.
In the eye of the door I lose
the colorful confusion of the every day.
I must turn around enter the vacuous hole
into the dark. I step in. I'm there
with only one tiny negative smaller
than my hand. My present and future are
all but gone. I'm in a portal to the past.
I pull the door closed and it is
The door slides around and opens into a large
room. At first I can't see anything. But after
a minute, the smallest of lumens, a tiny red orb
in a high ceiling corner, it doesn't push light
for more than a few inches--
though it refracts a hint of reflection
on four baths of liquid on a counter below.
The red light, the dampness and warmth
of the dryer, the sharp smelling oder places my
body in this womb where we hope to catch
small butterflies of light we call Truth.
The tap of tongs against
the tray tells me someone else is here with
feverous concentration, the end of the journey
while I am just beginning. We don't speak to
one another. The dark room is not about
community, though it acts like a tiny hive
for honeyed embryos of light.
This is the pitch--
Blackness I navigate from memory
to the second station from the far wall.
I've been here before. So often, I could
do without the red bulb, altogether.
I set up my enlarger,
adjust the settings for a single
exposure, count the ticks of the timer
to a nine second setting. Carefully pull
out the plate and insert the curling film
into it's brace--in the blood light I see
it's small veins of shadow. This negative
here, it's from when I was sixteen-- me before
all my mistakes, all my delusions,
but fully steeped in selfishness. What? I
was sixteen. Ah, but it's not a picture of me--
No, it's a picture I took of something,
something that was important to me.
I want to know what that was. I need
to know. I adjust my focus, and focus
again. It's hard going back in time-- in a
negative everything is opposite to real
life. You can't be quite sure what you are
really seeing. It's all backwards in
a looking glass world of inversed action.
Insert a new piece of paper
with the precious silver emulsion. Silver
tarnishes, changes to black-- something
hateful to a Silver tea service, but lovely
in the darkroom because we are going to
catch light. Catch it, hold it, and make
it stick-- just like Peter Pan's shadow.
Watch closely because this will be
I turn the switch. A small pouring of light
flows through like water from a bucket.
It cannot breach the darkness in it's
weakened state. It's time is limited.
Click. The light is off.
It's ready. My paper is steeped in light,
Have faith. You can see it yet.
I lay the paper in the developer
and wait a few minutes.
Slowly the picture appears in periphery
moving outwards. A revelation of
positive. I can make out some figures.
They are smiling, hmm it's really too dark
to make out who they are.
So I pull out the paper from it's tray,
and dip it in a Stop bath. Wait.
I wonder if I'll remember who they
are? Is it my neighbor, my cat, a friend?
I can't remember that far back. I'm so
so old now. Photography is old. Most
Dark rooms were shut down a long
time ago. This one will be demolished
Next I lay the paper in the Fixer with
a third set of tongs. Now no one
can change it. Permanent--
Finally, the fourth bath,
cleanses away all chemicals a final
baptism. It is done.
When the photo is dry,
I exit the dark room.
Alone-- I turn the revolving door
Step into the coffin and pull
the shroud over. I turn around--
Light comes at me with a force.
I'm inundated with light.
Blinded by light. Then the sound
of the cacophony of the real world
all it's jabs and colors returns.
I'm breathless, undone.
I take a step and look down at the
photo in my hand, shaking.