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Adjusting the Depth of Field

by Mary Quade

(after a version of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, March 1936)

The smaller the window
                                                  the more you will see
                   and the more you see clearly—
such focus—
                           the more the world seems flat.

Decide what you would rather leave
nebulous, what you should hide
in the fog of its own shape:

                                                        the bleary
suitcase set with the suggestion of
                                                                       an empty plate

                                   before the infant—less vague—

fading into his mother—
                                                   the crisp lines of her face—

the distinct pole holding up the lean-to,

                                                                                   the land beyond—
an impression of dust and trees.

                                                                    We see
no ruined field—
                                    the tiny peas lost to frost—
no hint of work.


Mary Quade’s collection Guide to Native Beasts won the 2003 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. For a number of years, she was a high school photography teacher in Portland, Oregon. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio. (10/2005)

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