Lizzy Petersen: Mike Disfarmer VI

I ask of my nephew to be grateful for the live body fixing his fingers on the piano keys in the lessons he does not have to mail order, thirteen years old and watching the rice mill until the cock’s crow some fifteen hours at a time and messing with the violin between shifts like I did. I presume he thinks it ain’t true. That I’m loading up, piling on the yarns and windies, blowing through his feathers. I intend that he be the one to crow, for to gather other’s attention is to startle them. That’s why god uses fear, red like the rooster’s tail. The beat better be quick to keep the dancers jigging, feet driving so frantic they’re bound to trip. A pace you can’t keep up for long. A speed to rival the devil and ignore the lord. Now I don’t instill too much awe, but when I release the shutter, I specifically don’t tell them it’s coming. I need to find their face in route from their thoughts and their fingers fiddling with a hem, their countenance stopped in its tracks.

* This piece is from a larger manuscript on the photography and life of Arkansas, penny-portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer (1884-1959). 

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