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Poetry Pleases: Dead Images

Ivor Murrell looks at an old photograph of himself and his workmates - and an intense feeling of cameraderie comes flooding back.

*

We literally see our dead relatives when we look at their photos
so the philosopher Kendall Walton has suggested.
Photographs are transparent, we see the world through them
and through their form of realism we glance into the past.
Walton philosophises on the nature of photographic realism
but what of time, spatial awareness, interaction?

What indeed of time, forty five years since we looked at the lens,
yet I now look back at myself staring directly at me
with very little sign of assertion at twenty
but a certain element of bravado,
for we are the heavy gang,
three of us have just lifted several tons of gearbox
sixty feet into the air and installed it on the tower diffuser.
by a cats cradle of chain blocks, a slow motion trapeze act
that enthralled onlookers with each load transfer.
Looking at me I can sense my elation, we’ve done it!
It was Bert’s lift, he sited the rigs and slings,
that quiet confidence shows, one hand in pocket.
Robin kneels in front, the 28 pound hammer on his shoulder
a physical pun on what we’ve just done.
Our greasy stores issued coveralls are critically off set
by Harry Bean’s white shirt and Johnnie Bullen’s ironed overalls,
both keen to slide into the aura of the moment but nowhere seen
throughout the long ratchet of the block and tackle lift.
Each transfer gauged to the inch, around, through
and above the machinery on all four floors.
This was spatial awareness of an intensity
that philosophers can only guess at,
I can still see that interaction in the photograph
and the dependence of the three that used it.

A warmth of camaraderie generates from the image in my hand
an intense feeling of the moment floods back,
to the last one left to feel it.

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