Chiaroscuro by Nathaniel Gutman


Mother. Weimar-style hat, face veil.
Grandfather, moustache, cigarette, papillon tie.

They pose like silent movie stars,
radiant in noir, golden-age lighting,
sepia portraits on large cotton rag sheets,
frosted silk flaps on top.
Life will never end, right?

Mother derides nostalgia: Want the photos?
Cousin David, the cardiologist, took them.

She digs out a snapshot on smaller, matte paper:
Mother, laughing, in a Tel Aviv café,
white shirt, khakis, sunglasses.
David. On a visit, 1936.

Flat, he complained, no contrast, no chiaroscuro.
Middle Eastern sun. Unforgiving blaze.

She puts them back in the worn leather folder: Here, take them.

Cousin David is gone, she says: Gone back home, to Berlin.

Gone back home, to Berlin, he couldn’t find himself here.
Gone back home, to Berlin, he loved so much.
Gone back home to Berlin and hanged himself.


Nathaniel Gutman is a filmmaker who has directed and/or written over 30 theatrical/TV movies and documentaries internationally, including award-winning Children’s Island (BBC, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel), Witness in the Warzone (with Christopher Walken), Linda (from the novella by John D. MacDonald; with Virginia Madsen). His poetry has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Tiferet Journal, Pangyrus, LitMag, Constellations, The American Journal of Poetry.

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