Saturday, September 4, 2010

Love Poem from Shannon Maney-Magnuson

I love science. I love science. I love science. I love science.
by Shannon Maney-Magnuson

In 1935
When Kodak invented Kodachrome slide film
It was so photographers could capture things the way they are
In full color
To develop the film,
They used a chemical compound
Phenidone, C9H10N2O
A slurry of
Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen
Poured onto a picture
To bring it to life

In July of 2010
Kodak gave its last roll of Kodachrome film
to a famous photographer
It marked the end of an era
in brilliant hues of red and orange
He took that roll of film to the only place in America that still develops it.

One little shop in Kansas still pours a chemical compound of
Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen
To breathe life into photographs.

The same week
I read the story about the last roll of Kodachrome film
That appeared in my inbox in an email from my aunt
Captured on Kodak Kodachrome slide film
Is my grandmother
And that cute one on the right
Is my mom

Barbara Jean begat Martha Jean and Martha Jean begat me.
And I’m Shanny Jean.

I love science I love science

(new slide)

My mom does not talk about her mom

Here is her family around 1960*, captured on Kodak Kodachrome slide film. Richard, Barbara, Linda, Martha, Bill.

Soon after this, Richard leaves for Kansas City**. Leave leaves. Gets a good job. Divorces his wife. Buys a Mister Coffee coffeemaker. Marries my grandma Yvonne (not pictured).

Barbara also remarries, sort of. She starts seeing a man named Cheap Gin, who’s a bottom shelf swill and not actually a man. And he changes her. Things get terrible. Linda turns seventeen and moves to Chicago*. Bill makes visits* back and forth from Kansas City. And Martha stays. Through all of it, she stays.

Before Martha graduates high school, Barbara gets cancer and dies. Just like that. Martha blames Richard. Martha blames Barbara. Martha never speaks of Barbara again. Not really.

Daughters understand more than anyone their mothers’ insecurities.
It’s why Martha stayed with Barbara.
And it’s why I don’t ask questions.

Chemical compounds like phenidone don’t choose the properties of their parent elements that develop in them
So too it is with us

I don’t get a say in what Barbara genes and Martha genes will develop into Shanny genes

They just develop.

I love science. I love science. I love science. I love science.

(final slide)

On July 21 2010,
On Kodak Kodachrome slide film
Developed with the chemical compound phenidone
I saw a picture of Barbara Jean Dalton Nelson for the first time in my life.
And in my twenty eight and a half years of living
It somehow never occurred to me
That she would look like me
That we would have had similar composition
That seeing my mother’s eyes on the face of her mother would someday make me cry
It never occurred to me that the pictures my mom had locked in a box
The thing she couldn’t bear to look at

Were pictures of times that were happy.
The proof of that fleeting joy.
Things as they were.
In color.

Are not chemical compounds
But we have a chemical composition
Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen (and other things)
Are poured over our paper thin skeletons
To link us to each other
To make us capable of memory
To make us come to life

I love science. I love science. I love science. I love science.

**This is kind of true, it turns out. He was in KC on business a lot, and traveled back and forth. At one point, it sort of stopped. I found out because...

*These facts were changed because my mom read the poem and corrected them. We talked for a very long time. I learned many many things. I cried and she didn't. It was, as you can imagine, cathartic and amazing. I love science. I love science. I love science. I love science.

1 comment:

  1. so beautiful. really. thank you so much.