112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.


Carol Samson, University of Denver

Indexical is a prose poem of 1,330 words. It explores photographs as indexes, toying with the records kept by old Polaroid photographs, turning sallow yellow, with the stereo-cameras that required the manufacturing of stereoslides, and with memory itself as it cannot help but escape the margins of a photograph, seeking to reconcile the now with the then of images and of mind that are bound in photographic records of  red houses and angular women holding birthday cakes and black dogs in black and white.


 I wish to propose a reading of my prose poem, "Indexical."  Here is the opening:  This is the terrain. It is a land covered with darkness so that people outside it cannot see anything and they can sometimes hear voices of women and the sound of horses neighing and cocks crowing, and they know that someone lives in there, but they do not know what kind of someone it might be, and, sometimes, when I find the people, they are there, frozen, like in this picture of my Aunt Ruth and me, and I see, again, how dark she was, how tall with thick black hair, her jawline severe, her nose straight as a pencil and, in this picture, you can see I am five years and small and holding a birthday cake, but what you cannot see, in the black and white and dark, is that I have red hair from my father’s side  and Ruthie is dark and is on my mother’s side, my grandmother’s sister,. . ., and, if you look closely, you will see Ruthie’s hand on my shoulder like she is claiming me, and you will see my plaid dress, red and green, belted in the back, my black shoes with a black strap, my socks folded over at the top and you can see that Aunt Ruthie and I  have come outside on the steps in winter, in January, in cold, and we are standing on the top step of the porch of my grandmother’s red house and there is snow on the edges of the concrete steps, and I know, if you  look closely, you can see the shadow of my grandmother invading the picture from the bottom step and how the winter sun is bright and how my grandmother is bent over her box camera, seeing Ruthie and me in a bubble that moves on the top, adjusting it again and again, trying to find us, to hold us still, and, what you cannot see, is that my grandmother’s house had a basement, a dark land with a room where Gary lived, Ruthie’s son, a boy with curly black hair who stayed in my grandmother’s basement for many years, coming upstairs now and then to bring pictures, paintings he had done of Gyro, the collie dog, of bowls of goldfish, of his own dark face with brown eyes, coming up from the basement when he wanted some homemade bread or oatmeal, and you would never know from this frozen picture space that when I was in first grade, my grandmother always sent Gary to my school to wait for me at the end of the day to walk me home and then he would go back to the basement to live and I myself can only imagine that, after she put Gary in the basement, my Aunt Ruthie with the pencil-straight nose, married my Uncle Mac, because that was before I was born and all I remember is that Mac was bald and worked for Kodak and had all sorts of cameras in his house and that he told me about lenses, about color film, about how we are indexical. . . .