The Decisive Moment
Anne Whitehouse

                                        The decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second,
                                        of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms,
                                        which gives that event its proper expression.

                                                                                                             -Henri Cartier-Bresson  

On a glorious June evening
after the retrospective exhibit
of Cartier-Bresson's world-spanning art,
I strolled into Central Park,
and left the path to climb the rock.  

Below me, a woman approached the arch under a bridge
trailing two leashes connected to twin beagles.
The heightened perspective, the swirls of motion
made a picture Henri might have taken.  

Early summer light, bright but not blinding,
warm but not hot. It went through me,
tinting my mind like wine through water.  

My vision created frames as I walked,
keeping violent emotions at bay,
where what seems threatening
can be studied from an inner distance,
like the way one walks around a sculpture
to view it from all angles.  

No matter how tenuous I think are the ties
that bind me to the miserable past,
I am not deceived;
heartstrings can be played on,
and twist and tighten
at a moment's notice,
like a devilish phylactery
strangling the life out of me.  

Surprising the pain that endures
or perhaps not strange—
enmeshed in desperate, unequal trials
I had no chance of winning,
I buried my feelings so deep
I couldn't find them
and turned my heart to stone,
that slowly is softening.

Anne Whitehouse

is the author of poetry collections: The Surveyor's Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, and One Sunday Morning. Her next collection, The Refrain, is forthcoming this year from Dos Madres Press. Her novel, Fall Love, is available free as an ebook from Smashwords and Feedbooks. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Harvard College and Columbia University, and lives in New York City.

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