Tell Me What’s Wrong 

If we all begin as blank

as I look in these photos, I represent

the vessels we are before the rains

of awareness fall and we’re filled

with water we don’t understand.

Or the opposite’s true and this

is how we’ll look in the future

buffed and focused on bottom lines

unlike our previous soft-headed selves

rising fluorescent in company sun.

This is the problem with photographs:

faces mean what they might

become, neon signs jangling

light to an empty street, neon

flashing in warehouse glass.

Where is the kid who sat up in bed,

sudden truth of his own death

driving him stunned to his parents’

door where he stood waiting

to be asked what was wrong?

In the photo my daughter holds of herself,

she is two years younger, rising concerned

from her small plastic chair. I can see in her face

she’s lost the memory of being this girl

of the beach that stretches behind her.

It’s sadness she feels looking back

at herself. I am the one who should know

what to say, who stood in a hallway

of nothing but shadows and must

have emerged with some kind of truth.

Nothing I say could do enough,

could make what’s been seen go away.

My daughter has glimpsed where this all

is leading, wishes she didn’t but understands

she is already leaving her life behind.

Scott Davidson grew up in Montana, worked for the Montana Arts Council as a Poet in the Schools, and – after most of two decades in Seattle – lives with his wife in Missoula. His poems have appeared in Southwest Review, Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing, trampset, Terrain. org, and the Permanent Press anthology Crossing the River: Poets of the Western United States.