Chanice Hughes-Greenberg

AUGUST 19, 1970

My grandfather was in the Navy. I regret not asking more about his service time—about being a black man defending a county refusing to defend you. A portrait use to sit near the steps of him in his uniform. In this photo he photographs the waves as someone photographs him. Not my grandmother, maybe my uncle. I think my mother was born too late. Too little to hold a camera standing among the rocks.

My grandfather photographs the waves & I did the same when I went to the west coast. Do the same. Similar. He wears a white jacket I never saw, dark grey pants. Faces the ocean & not us. The camera used to take this photo is now mine—claimed. What happened in 1970—my grandparents took a trip out west & photographed the ocean. A mark on the family timeline, a minor event. I know it is the west coast because a child (now an adult) wrote August 19, 1970—My Daddy and the Pacific Ocean on the back of the Polaroid. Did they know Polaroid wouldn’t exist. Erosion eats away this landscape. Shoreline. There’s no green in the photo—grey, black, blue, pale blue, ocean water blue, foam on the waves.

This is a man who traveled, who knew both coasts. When he died we buried him at the military cemetery & at the wake men his age played Taps & I didn’t cry. Or I did & I don’t remember. We went to San Francisco when I was in kindergarten—my first time on a plane & I got to sit first class. When you are young you don’t think to remember & your time is managed by older hands.

That we were on the west coast together is important to remember. That we shared air space there & back, that I was five or six & we drove down the winding street. That we both photographed the waves in different weather. That the waves were blue & the foam spread across the surface & maybe it was the same water but can water last that many years.


clutter / flood / these shapes—our recollection of noise

arrangements / two walls in different locations

bare surfaces / breathing / warm white

looking away / temporary / in profile

the floor / passed through / unframed

her practice: arrangements of the lower body

the way in which / breathing / facing each other or / looking away

temporary space / another room / an abbreviation

situations / narrative / falls / static

the viewer / placing objects / choreography

light / rare color / a point of / sound / within


Bring yourself home, she tells me. All I can remember is green—a mountainside, the valley from car windows, from the airplane. The difference a year makes. Repeat. We have trees like this. Had. A fan in the window or overhead. Remember summer as a series of days doing nothing—past lives. Voices from the house. There: a moment of tenderness, a word I don’t use often. You kiss my knee. I flex my feet thinking of it now. It’s in my nature to be melancholy—or so I read. One side of the shore in sun. The stone markers along the train route. How dark it looks in those woods. How these towns remind me of. Where do these names come from. What a glamorous time that was—looking at a history of a family that isn’t mine. Hold me. I put my hand out then take it back. What I read is only half right. The overgrowth now the fence can’t hold. I’m not able to put this into words—the train back & the feeling of everything ending. It’s called a Japanese Maple. When things like this were new.

Chanice Hughes-Greenberg is a poet, Capricorn, & chic cat lady living in Bed-Stuy. She graduated from Pratt Institute in 2010 with a BFA in Writing & hails from upstate New York by way of Long Island. Her work has appeared in Caketrain, Correspondence, Art Observed, Packet Biweekly, & Horse Less Review. She is the Membership & Direct Mail Coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, & drinks rosé year round.
Mark Cugini