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Daguerreotype collection (Library of Congress).

The first light picture ever taken. 1839.


Daguerreotype, Appalachia, circa 1900
by Susan Gunter

The faded brown daguerreotype on our mantel
shows a wildcatter, male, upright,
dressed in a suit and white starched shirt,
its banded collar cramping his thick neck,
standing beside a geyser of black gold
in Appalachia. He fathered six
and kept a wife at home in East Hickory.
In the picture, it is raw spring.
A late snowstorm killed the cherry blooms–
the trees just north of his drill rig.
That meant no pie timber for winter
and no pitting the fruit
in July with steel hairpins.
His daughter Ruby used to scoop
the cherry stones until her fingers
bore small curved imprints.

At twelve, she twisted her long
hair in a Chinese braid down her back.
Her brothers pulled it until she cried.
On summer days they chased her to the river,
one wearing a black snake wound about his arm.
She was screaming as she slipped
into the Allegheny’s spinning waters.
They laughed at her as her bright calico skirt
buoyed above her waist like a balloon,
her tight braid floating on the dark water.

After her father left the oil fields,
rich enough now to sell the farm,
they moved to a frame house in town,
with gingerbread trim all around the porch.
When the money went, as all but he knew it would,
she apprenticed to the town seamstress.
One day she cut her hand and bled
all over the banker’s daughter’s wedding gown.
She sewed fine satin over the stain.
Two years later she fell in love
with the quiet older Swedish man
who brought groceries to their back door.
They courted at church suppers and drove
to the lake in the summer in his buggy.

Her third child was stillborn,
the fourth died of pneumonia at just two years–
they had no penicillin then. She had her grief,
though, and stayed in bed a month.
When her husband died she moved
to a room in her eldest daughter’s house,
taking the daguerreotype with her.

On her maple dresser rested a china bowl,
white with pink and green straw flowers
and a hole in the top the size of a ring finger.
At night she tugged her combs
from her silver hair and placed them in the bowl.
She brushed her thinnng hair one hundred times
and loosened her corset stays,
letting it slip to the floor.
For years she could barely see,
but when the cataracts fell from her eyes
she read past midnight of distant magic mountains,
where there were no witches, only snow in summer.

Every day the water roared over a blue Niagra
on the top of her tin button box and
the windup alarm ticked on her dresser.
When we called her one morning, she didn’t stir.
Her broad chest lay still beneath the chenille spread,
her fingers curled open on the sheet
as though she had just let go of something.
Copyright ©1988 Susan Gunter, All Right Reserved

Dagerotipija, Apalačke planine, otprilike 1900
Susan Gunter

prevod Lena Rut Stefanović

Na požuteloj starinskoj fotografiji na našem kaminu
stoji naftaš – muževan, prav,
u odelu i uštirkanoj košulji,
uzdignut beli okovratnik steže mu snažni vrat
– kraj gejzira od crnog zlata
u Apalačima. Njegovih šestoro dece i žena
su kući, u Istočnom Hikoriju.

Na slici je rano proleće.
Pozne mećave ubile su trešnjin cvat-
drveće je odmah tu, nešto severnije od bušotina.
To znači da nema kolača s voćem zimi
niti čišćenja koštica čeličnim ukosnicama
u Julu.
Njegova kći Rubi vadila bi tako koštice
iz trešanja sve dok joj se šnala
nebi usekla u prste.

U dvanestoj, uplitala je svoju dugu kosu
u pletenicu koja se spuštala niz leđa, do struka.
Braća bi je vukla za kosu dok nebi zaplakala.
Letnjim danima bi je jurili do reke,
jedan od njih imao je ranu od ujeda smuka na ruci.
Ona bi vrištala dok bi ulazila
u uskovitlane vode Alegene.
Smejali bi se dok bi joj se svetla, nabrana suknja,
poput balona, uzdizala do struka
i zajedno sa pletenicom plutala po tamnoj vodi.

Nakon što je njen otac napustio naftna polja,
dovoljno bogat da može prodati farmu,
preselili su se u grad, u kuću sa šiljastim krovom,
čiji je trem bio oivičen kitnjastom ogradom.
Kad je novca nestalo – a svi osim njega znali su da hoće
počela je da uči zanat kod gradske švalje.
Jednog dana posekla je ruku i iskrvarila
na venčanicu bankareve kćeri.
Zašila je fini saten preko mrlje.
Dve godine kasnije zaljubila se
u starijeg, povučenog čoveka iz Švedske,
koji je dostavljao namirnice na stražnja vrata njihove kuće.
Udvarao joj se dok bi večaravali u crkvi,
leti bi se odvozili na jezero njegovim bugijem.

Njegovo treće dete bilo je mrtvorođenče,
četvrto je umrlo od upale pluća tek napunivši dve godine -
nije bilo penicilina tada. Ona je tugovala, pak,
ne ustavši mesec dana sa postelje.
Kada joj je suprig preminuo prešla je
kod najstarije ćerke, u jednu sobu,
ponevši fotografiju sa sobom.

Na škrinji od javorovog drveta
stajala je zdela od porcelana,
oslikana ružičastim i zelenim poljskim cvećem,
sa otvorom na vrhu veličine kažiprsta.
Pred počinak bi skidala češljiće
sa svoje srebrne kose i odlagala ih tamo.
Četkom bi prešla proređenu kosu stotinu puta
i olabavila kopče od steznika,
puštajući ga da sklizne na pod.
Godinama je bila slabovida,
ali kada je mrena spala sa njenih očiju,
dugo iza ponoći bi čitala o dalekim magičnim planinama
u kojima nema veštica, već samo snega tokom leta.

Svakog dana voda bi hučala na plavim vodopadima Nijagare
na vrhu njene limene kutije za dugmad
dok je sat na navijanje otkucavao na plakaru.
Jednog jutra, kada smo je pozvali, nije se pomakla.
Njene krupne grudi ležale su nepomično pod veženim prekrivačem,
prsti joj behu opušteni na čaršavu,
kao da je upravo ispustila nešto.

Copyright ©1988 Susan Gunter, All Right Reserved
Authorized Translation ©2012 Lena Ruth Stefanovic, All Rights Reserved

Susan Gunter, Ph.D.http://www.westminstercollege.edu/apps/directory/directory_dsp.cfm?unit=sgunter

Susan’s website http://www.susanegunter.com/my-other-books.html

America’s First Look into the Camera: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/daghtml/