Joan Colby



It was all black and white then

So he would tint a photograph

Meticulously, by hand, bending over

The drafting table, brilliantly illuminated,

Rimless glasses reflecting deliberation

As he colored in what he remembered

Or maybe just selected.


Later on in Kodachrome, he forgot that passion

To restore the hues that the viewfinder

Recorded, that were ditched in the darkroom

Where acid trays delivered black and white

Versions of history. The colored ones

Looked fake despite the care he took.


The black and white studies were the ones

Salons admired. Stark or subtle

In that excision poets learn

To invoke leaving stern skull and bones

Or flitting shadows.


The blown-up prints suggest

The darkroom artifice

Presaging his intent to add

Blush to a cheek, blue to the air.


And it is these that we prefer,

That film noir of sorrow

Limned with menace. How

Every funeral should be shot

In black and white, 8 millimeter.



Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as PoetryAtlanta ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewThe Spoon River Poetry ReviewNew York Quarterly, the new renaissanceGrand StreetEpoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007),  Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 11 books, including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest books from Future Cycle Press —“Dead Horses. and Selected PoemsSelected Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize. A chapbook — Bittersweet” — is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press in 2014.

Posted on May 14, 2015 .