Modes

(For Karen Perlmutter)

Christmas, 2006 / No. 17

The portraitist,

accoutrements: her cove,

a curving

floor-to-ceiling wall—

white, no right angles.

Canvas backdrop,

single chair,

a soft box and reflector.

I sit before the tripod, subject to light.

“Set-up is ninety per cent,” she says,

and slips the India silk

across my shoulders, hooding my hair.

“Close your eyes.”

I do; she shoots—first

a Polaroid prep.

The allegretto

strings in Beethoven’s

numinous last quartet suffuse the room.

My image comes up quick—ethereal girl,

borne away in the head of a deaf man.

She snaps the film-back onto the Hasselblad.

“Close your eyes and open slowly.

Centre on your chest.”

I lower my nose,

hear the lento e tranquillo,

deeply.

Camera captures every fraction,

reckons every breath.

Sepia: the second set.

Wearing my woven Ephesus shawl,

I’m altered—almond-eyed, almost, and older.

Grave ma non troppo tratto.

Weave of that biblical city

transposes me

instantly

into a Lydian.

Elana Wolff is a writer, editor, translator, and designer and facilitator of social art courses. Her latest poetry collection, Swoon, won the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for poetry. She has contributed to the magazine since 2000. Last updated winter, 2020–2021.