The Grain

I wanted to know what the grain in a photograph is, a film photograph, knowing or suspecting already that it is caused by low light, or rather light having gone somewhere else, beyond the frame, which is a place that we, viewing this image, cannot know, but guess, and in that sense much like the afterlife, if you believe in the afterlife, which, despite stubborn superstitions, I do not, or like the room you construct in your mind, having heard the voice on the tape (the tape it no longer, usually, is) and the way it echoes back what must be walls, and furniture, and the sort. Grain in a photograph presents an optical texture: your eye, truly, might feel to you as if it brushes against it, and the larger a photograph becomes, the more grain appears, or seems to appear, unless it is a digital photograph (as often, and really most often, now, it is), where it is the pixels that suffer from a lack of light, the noise of which can resemble but is not the same as film grain. I looked at the photograph and I wanted

             to know this. I looked at you in the photograph, coming apart into each grain of your gesture, and I wanted to know this. I wanted to know when I looked at your hand in the air of the photograph, alight but limp, almost floating, toward whose caress I cannot know, what the grain is. Caught there, in the grain of it, your careless reach, long enough it almost shook—shakes—itself into motion, the air there ratcheting tighter into silver as the image pries apart nearly into discrete, sequential frames. What it is. If  I could ask you. And you could say.  Just a film photograph, one of many in this envelope. But. Held to the light, brought to my lips: somewhere beyond the frame I wanted to know what the grain is, to be given the words for what I already knew, quick in its loss, there where your grasp turned and turns still back and nearly, even now, collapsed.