The woman with one breast, her hand on mouse
Click-clicks through photographs of better times
Sunglasses caked with sand pushed back on head
At tables with her girlfriends, glass aloft
Arms round her children, husband by her side.
She looks at her own eyes, centre of frame
Her makeup covering complacency
The smile of one by lightning never struck.
Then – click! – a picture, seemingly mundane
Brings her to sudden, unexpected tears
A park, a birthday party for a child
She stands side-on, in bottom left of frame
Her presence incidental to the shot
She leans towards a friend, as if mid-joke
Her out-of-focus smile is unconstrained
By habit or thought of posterity
Oblivious to the photographer
True self-oblivion appears achieved.
The notion that, when captured unawares
She would be seen with joy upon her face
Seems from a time almost beyond recall
A shadow-less existence lost for good.
And then she understands that to regain
The spirit which is captured edge of frame
She must not live as if her life’s a book
She can’t proceed with ’till she has a chance
To peek at the last page, see how it ends
That true embrace of living cannot be
Contingent on an answer that’s unknown
That early death must also be embraced
If that is how her story is to close
And if transcendence is to be attained –
To capture once again that blurry laugh –
Her daily quest, with her one breast, must be
To live as if not in the photograph.
Liz Bennett works as a mediator in the remote tropical city of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. She was a finalist in the 2019 NT Literary Awards, placed in the 2012 Australian Cancer Council Arts Awards, and has had poetry and other writing published or upcoming in Not Very Quiet, be:longing, Stereo Stories, Spineless Wonders, Lighten Up Online, and in the anthology Imagining the Real: Australian Writing in the Nuclear Age (ABC Enterprises). Find her on Instagram @liz_janebennett.