Julie Bruck: "Snapshot at Uxmal, 1972"




Leaning into the sun-warmed stone, she must

be fifty, still beautiful, her strong frame

easy inside her loose shirt and jeans.  


He’s gone to a larger ruin for the day,

someplace deeper in the jungle, more

challenging to reach by jeep or tank.


Here, where the early Mayans worshipped

the sun, appeased their gods with routine

live sacrifice, she will photograph only


small details in black and white. Later,

he’ll describe the jungle’s colors, ornate

bird plumage, the vast scale of what he saw.


She will need the afternoon to document a single

weed growing through a crack in the pediment,

a candy wrapper blown against an ancient step.


And there is the daughter, fifteen and not

quite as sullen as she’s going to be, shouldering

the pack of lenses, her mother’s fine-grain film.


Her father’s impatience hasn’t flared in her yet,

though she carries that too, an unstruck match,

trailing her mother through the tall, dry grass.



Julie Bruck's books include The Woman Downstairs (1993), The End of Travel (1999), and a newly completed manuscript, Monkey Ranch.  Her work has appeared in New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Malahat Review, among other journals.