Phantom Limbs: A Photo Essay

 I have been moved by Anne Michael's poem Phantom Limbs for decades. I think of it all of the time walking around the town where we live. So many things sit in ruin or have burned to the ground. I decided to start taking some photographs of it. Flowers still blooming at a house that has been abandoned for 30 years. The glimpse of a child's swing through the ruins of a meth lab. Enjoy this photo essay.
 Phantom Limbs
by Anne Michaels

So much of the city
is our bodies. Places in us
old light still slants through to.
Places that no longer exist but are full of feeling,
like phantom limbs.

Even the city carries ruins in its heart.
Longs to be touched in places
only it remembers.

Through the yellow hooves
of the ginkgo, parchment light;
in that apartment where I first
touched your shoulders under your sweater,
that October afternoon you left keys
in the fridge, milk on the table.
The yard - our moonlight motel -
where we slept summer's hottest nights,
on grass so cold it felt wet.
Behind us, freight trains crossed the city,
a steel banner, a noisy wall.
Now the hollow diad !
floats behind glass
in office towers also haunted
by our voices.

Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt;
stairs leading nowhere; high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
had been left behind.

"The face of the city changes more quickly, alas! than the mortal heart."
      —Charles Baudelaire


Rachelle said…
this made me kindof sad. It makes you wonder what happened to the child who once sat in the swing..
Whoever he/she is..I pray they are ok..
I love the poem. Very beautiful, yet haunting

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