Some kinds of losses are so slight and undefined we may be unaware of their impact. Poet and photographer Jay Alan Martin reflects on the loss of one resident in a neighborhood with a wistful nod to the objects that speak to her lingering presence:
Junipero Serra is a road not lived on by the pretty or the rich. It’s a beaten path from 280 to the Golden Gate, exuding bumper to bumper exhaust, breathed by those who made peace with the urban curse in the darkening houses walling the freeway.
A woman tumbles from the Muni train. She waddles to her home on Junipero Serra.
I know her, or do I know of her?
After work, she hauls her backpack in a grocery cart on the short slow journey home, finally.
She’s short, Filipino, broad nose plunked on broader face, rivers of wrinkles rounding pits and pocks on a wincing face.
On weekends, she weeds her front lawn, sitting on dirt, her wide sweaty neck beading like hot wax.
She pulls weeds slowly. I don’t know if they’re all weeds. She pulls her arms like the torque of axles needing grease.
The yellowing house looks on.
I haven’t seen the woman in months.
Now the curtains she had put up some year swirl recklessly in the windows. The black jetties that peek between the curtains are impenetrably black, her eyes I see.
The lawn is all weed. The house stands more than just still.
She’s there on the curb.
All of her Kodak moments bulge glossy in 4 x 5 albums.
France, Italy, Greece, the Philippines flip in wind. The noble knights of the Loire riding their sweaty horses are still as stone, and the ancient columns towering over 10,000 worn tourists are fading even in the spring of San Francisco.
Her scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings, spiral notebooks, notes to a dead husband, kids (who put their mother here) wait.
One notebook called, “Cakes,” flips open.
She wrote in a fine hand. Rustling pages reveal “Coconut Frosting,” “Sour Milk Devil’s Food Cake,” “Cheese Chiffon Cake.”
The recipes flow from light green pages onto the thirsty grass.
The backs of the cake recipes are tortured by tumbling multiplications and divisions, indecipherable code calculated for sweet consumption.
Foxing eats “2 c. sugar.”
I take the Cakes notebook. No one is touching the leftovers.
Jay Alan Martin is a writer and photographer who lives with his wife and cat in San Francisco.
He explains that “foxing” is “that slow growing of old paper.”

Not Your Typical New Orleans Photo

One of the elements that draws me to my kind of work (hospice) or to a story or in this case a photo, is its mixture of loss and resilience. Friend and photographer Jay Martin was in New Orleans during the Sugar Bowl and took this shot of a  person selling beads.   I invite my site visitors to let the photo speak for itself to you of obstacles versus moving along, of drabness versus color, of frivolity versus labor, of being in the center versus going unnoticed. Do you wonder along with me how he navigated with his arms extended, and whether  stretching them out like that was onerous?

Here is what Mr. Martin had to say: “I took the picture of the man selling beads from his wheelchair during Sugar Bowl festivities in the French Quarter, early afternoon, Friday, 29 Dec. ’17. A small parade of floats, marching bands, and anyone who wanted to be in the parade wound its way through the quarter. I could hear the bands playing as I spotted the man, shouting to prospective buyers– ‘Beads! Beads!’–on Bourbon.”


Jay Martin is a technical and science writer who lives with his wife and cat in San Francisco. He has interacted with photography for over 30 years, taking pictures of people and animals. He thinks he can understand the world a little better than he did the day before by daily observation through the lens.