Boy's First Photograph

He watched, bored by blankness
at first developing in slow.
I called him back to see himself
fill in color, the two neon butterfly nets
he swatted over his three-year-old smile.
How he appeared there,
a white-blonde lamb in a flat slice
of his young summer.
With both hands he pinched it,
sustaining amazement by the fire.
He took breaks to feed food scraps
and new tears of paper towels
to the flames,
an insatiable pyro
faced with open ends:
What to do with magic paper
with part of you inside?
One thing that cannot burn –
the memory of his small voice
like charcoal, saying
Thank you! Thank you!
He zipped up his tent
to keep his siblings out,
alone in the dark with a lantern
to admire himself.

Bryce Johle’s work has appeared in Parentheses Journal, Eunoia Review, October Hill Magazine, Maudlin House, and Pennsylvania Bard’s Western Poetry Review 2023, among others. His first chapbook, Airplane Graveyard, will be published in 2024. He hosts Arcade Bookshop, a game and literature podcast. Bryce lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with his inimitable wife and stepdaughter.

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