Thirteen Frames and a Poodle

Holly Willis


The ferry line forms the first frame. You are from here, or you are from away.



The boat’s crossing tracks the second frame, carving a 15-mile question mark in water,

or a hook.



The names of things seen from the ferry designates the third frame:

the South Ledge and the breakwater,

the narrows and the reach,

Burying Island, Potato Island, Old Harbor:

all of these due north of Folly Ledge.



The barn

“a large building that is usually bare and plain”

forms the fourth frame, holding, carrying, housing.



Food is frame five. We make pancakes and couscous, onion tarts and chocolate mousse, bread and more bread and bread with butter and jam.



Frame six: the ghost.

Does the ghost draw?

Does the ghost write?

Is the ghost a face marked in my bureau drawer?


The poodle

– peeing, playing –

 refuses the frame

– barking and leaping and tenderly biting –



Where we sleep is frame seven: the Poor Farm, Swallow Farm, the bunk-room in the barn. I dream under three wool blankets in a swath of moonlight in a room with no doorknob. Mary is now and then the first to sleep, her door open, her light on.



Making makes the eighth frame. She make rings from lobster antenna, casting them in silver; she dissolves paper, pushing the words from shore, letters adrift like tiny islands; they pick mushrooms and put them under cups; the spores fall onto paper in a circle of lines; they float on ropes dressed in green plastic skirts; they make prints in green and pink and grey; they dig holes and scream into the earth; he stirs, kneads, bakes the bread; they ask us to change and add to their thing; she is typing her way around an island; he is writing into being a new audience; she makes loops, repeating, and the women laugh and laugh and laugh.



Games frame the ninth frame giving us another language: four corners and blackout; butt quarters and hold your beans. And shame: asked to name games from childhood, all I could think of was the urge to torture. How is that here?



Writing, rewriting: frame number ten. We will write what we feel. We will rewrite history. We will reclaim and contextualize the pilfered and stolen. We will cut it up, sew it together, print it out, tape it down, press it together for five days, and take its picture. We will ship to prisons.



We will not forget frame number eleven: memory.

Can you take a picture that rewrites a memory for somewhere else?

Can you link this thing
– this thing being only an assembly of relations –
to its memory?



The questions we ask circumscribe frame twelve: what are brands and why do we love them? what is the form of a history? how do we make a new form? who’s in charge? what is a ghost and why do we need one?



The end frames the final frame. We are here, not from here; we will go away and remember here, smudging the memory like a mushroom spore with each repetition.