Dark Side

Night Photography in Virginia

Broad Street at Night, Richmond, Virginia, 1959

Adolph B. Rice Sr. (1909–1960) Broad Street at Night, Richmond, Virginia, 1959

Adolph B. Rice Sr. (1909–1960)
Broad Street at Night, Richmond, Virginia, 1959


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7 Responses to “Broad Street at Night, Richmond, Virginia, 1959”

  1. Riley Slate says:


    Can you hear them?
    The sounds that make up our universe.
    The sounds that cause fear, start wars, take lives.
    But the loudest sounds are the ones that no one hears.
    The sound of a nightmare.
    The sound of a child who doesn’t fit in.
    The sound of a broken heart.
    The sound of someone who has been silenced.
    The sound of a person stripped of their identity, robbed by the world they thought they could trust.
    The sound of a clock when time is running out.

  2. Grace Robinson says:


    Alone I cry, the gasping dark
    hits me like a broken heart.

    The song within me will not sing
    A flightless bird, a broken wing.

    Who will come to rescue me,
    unlock the door with a broken key?

    I taste the light and cannot stand,
    like grasping wind with a broken hand.

    When light sings, the song is warm
    And darkness fades, a broken storm.

    Light comes in, throws wide my door
    Darkness is gone, I am broken no more.

  3. Shannon O'Neill says:

    The darkness allows things the light does not. Still, even now, your eye is drawn to the light, that moment of recognition that someone sees you, knows you.

    It was this place that brought you to her.

    This up high, on the roof, out of the way place where there are no limits, where certain rules don’t apply–hands roam where they please, and there is nothing above but the moon. When you look out onto the lit street below, you think for a split second that your little peanut life might be worth something after all.

    That kind of woman, that kind of story.

    And what do you do with a woman like that? A woman who can sit at a bar with another man, leaning into him, laughing, weaving her fingers around a rope of pearls, twisting and twisting, and still she manages to slip you a look. The kind of woman with a face that says she has seen just enough of life to know how to hold it in her delicate palm.

    Two hours later, six scotches into the night, the bar is empty except for you, her and the bartender. The other man, red-faced and drunk, stomping out the door, is a distant memory.

    She knows how to work her big green eyes, knows how to make them well up with tears when she tells you her husband is a louse. You will turn your world upside down and your pockets inside out to make sure a single tear does not fall.

    “I guess I’m all yours now.” She giggles, laying her hand gently atop yours.

    Said she saw your camera on the bar next to you and thought maybe, oh could she ask such a thing? Maybe you could take some photos? She tells you she wants to be a singer. Has a sister in Norfolk who knows a guy who knows someone up in New York. She has the perfect spot, has it all laid out—doesn’t want one of those stiff sweetheart poses on a stool, eyes batting upwards. No, she wants the Connie Francis hand on hip, cocktail dress, jazz singer pose.

    She persuades you to sneak past the front desk. She leads you into the stairways and up into an empty ballroom. She flips on the lights and pulls a bottle of champagne out from under her shawl, hands it to you and commands you open it. And when she leans herself back onto the piano and puts her hand on her hip and levels her eyes at you, opens that perfect bow-shaped mouth just enough—you snap that photo and you don’t ask any questions.

    A woman with that kind of story has told it to a million other fools. But the way she tells it, the quiet whisper in your ear, the giggling perfumed breath, makes you think it is only for you.

    That kind of woman is an interruption to the natural pace of things. All you remember is before her and after her.

    After that night, you go back to that bar so many times you get sick of the smell of the place, sick of your own sad dog face in the mirror nursing that drink, and the good old city boys with their cigars, the tattered old man in his too small suit coming in talking about his dead missus. That kind of place is for the dead.

    A week goes by and there is nothing but silence. And then one night, the telephone blasts you out of a dead sleep. When you hear her whisper your name, you are awake, heart pounding. You don’t count how many days she has not called. Her voice is a low murmur of words, rising with a tint of fear at the end. If you could just come by and meet her, she’s in a real jam and no she can’t tell you more just now. You squint at your watch, 2:14 a.m. You hear a man’s voice rumbling toward her in the background and she is gone.

    But it is you that she needs, not him. You get dressed so fast you don’t bother with a jacket. You call a taxi to get to a woman like that. And when you get to the hotel, you know how to sneak past the front desk and you don’t waste time waiting for the elevator. You climb all twelve stories so that when you get to the top you are already gasping for breath as you open that door onto the roof. But she is not there. You wait until the sun rises for her, but she never comes.

    Railroad man finds her later that morning, down by the river. Newspaper runs a story, no photo. “Woman’s Body Found Near Boulevard Bridge.” Says she was already dead when she got there, signs of a struggle, rope found around her neck. You read between the lines: thrown down next to the tracks like garbage. You can see her, red lines around her neck where the rope had been, green eyes wide open.

    From here, in the dark, above the city, you see people for who they are—small, vicious and unashamed. You stare into those arched windows of light and see things. A woman lounging in her bathtub, no curtains, naked as a jaybird thinks she is alone, thinks the buildings don’t have eyes. A wife places down a late dinner, a tune from the radio and the husband shouting escapes the open window and the breeze lifts it out to you.

    You hear a scream from somewhere out there in the darkness. But it is already too late, by the time you have heard it, it is nothing more than an interruption.

  4. J.S.Lee says:

    it used to be darker.

    (some days it still is.)
    Back then, you could smell the brick sun-
    baked; the blood-and-salt odor of rust
    faint as oil on fingertips tracing streetlights
    straight and narrow until they reached
    the west horizon, landing strip
    for a future that stretched past
    the lines of black and white.

    (some days they still are.)

  5. Martha Erwin says:

    There’s Always Shooting Stars

    “Well, look at that.”
    “A lonely sight, ain’t it?”
    “What’s lonely about it.”
    “Huh? Everything’s dead, nobody’s out. Just a few parked cars, a bus.”
    “Don’t seem lonely to me. Look at all the lights.”
    “But there aren’t any people out.”
    “Good. That would be lonely. Looking at lots of people, and you not being one of ‘em.”
    “That’s your fault, ain’t it.”
    “What’s that.”
    “That you’re not one of ‘em.”
    “Well, I’m not alone. I got you, don’t I?”
    “Ha ha. Very funny.”
    “You, and all those lights. Looks like Christmas. Seems like all those lights are on just for us.”
    “Ha ha again.”
    “Who else is using ‘em?”
    “Hey, what’re we doin’ up here anyway. It’s late.”
    “We’re waiting. Waiting for the right time. It’ll be today.”
    “Tomorrow, you mean.”
    “I mean today. See the clock?”
    “Says midnight.”
    “Two minutes after.”
    “Aw, you can’t see that far. Your eyes are shot, you’re half deaf.”
    “Shut up.

    “Hey, you’re not gonna chicken out on me, are ya?”
    “That’s up to you.”
    “How do ya figure.”
    “Just say the word, we’ll forget about it.”
    “So you are, then. You are chickening out.”
    “Just makin’ sure you’ve considered all the ram-i-fi-cay-shuns.”

    “We had some good times there, didn’t we.”
    “Huh? What’re we talking about? You changin’ the subject?”
    “Maybe. Not really.”
    “Where do ya mean.”
    “The hotel.”
    “Oh, sure, yeah. That was years ago, but still, it was grand, wasn’t it? Coming home and everybody so happy to see us. The parades, the girls, the dancing, man, oh man.”
    “That didn’t last.”
    “Well, nothin’ lasts forever, right? We thought the war would go on forever, then we dropped the bomb, and it was over, just like that. Thank goodness we had the balls to do that.”
    “Sure, over just like that.”
    “You know, when I think about those times, when we got back, the first thing I think about is Loretta.”
    “See any stars? There ought to be some stars out. There’s no moon.”
    “Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought her up.”
    “It’s okay.”
    “No, really. Besides, there were plenty of other girls.”
    “Yeah, plenty.”
    “But really, Loretta’s is the only face I can still see, clear as day. The others, I can see them–their faces, I mean–but they’re all the same face. Hers is the only one that don’t get mixed up with the rest.”
    “Mixed up in your messed up head, you mean.”
    “Ain’t it true? Loretta’s is the only one you can still see.
    “Hey, you comin’? Let’s go over to the hotel bar, for old times’ sake.”
    “Sure, go on. I’ll meet you there.”
    “You won’t let me down, will ya?”

    “Hello, Bill.”
    “I thought you’d gone.”
    “That was the other one.”
    “Well, just how many others are there?”
    “That’s up to you, Bill.
    “I’m the one that was on Okinawa. Bloody hell, but we made out okay, didn’t we? Speaking of that, are you sure about this? What you’ve got planned for today, I mean.”
    “Good. Let’s go then.”
    “Hold on. You asked if I’m sure, and the answer is no. But when has not being sure ever stopped me? You know me as well as I do.”
    “Yeah, I know you, so come on, let’s go over to the bar.”
    “Okay. But first, I want to see some stars. A shooting star. I’ll stop staring at those lights, get my eyes adjusted, and wait. Just let me see one, make a wish, then I’ll come have a drink.”
    “And what if there aren’t any tonight? What are you going to do then? That’s crazy.”
    “I may be crazy, but you’re ignorant. There’s lots of stars shooting off all the time–meteors is what they are, really. We don’t see ‘em because we’re not looking or we’re blinded by lights, or something else. Something else somebody else wants us to see. So go on, I’ll have got my wish before you’ve finished your first highball.”

    “Bill, how are ya?”
    “Ah, come on. Not another one.”
    “Looks like I’m the only one still up here.”
    “And what fond memories are you gonna dredge up?”
    “Why don’t you tell me?”
    “How about the ones from yesterday, or the day before that, or a month ago? How about those memories?
    “Yeah, I thought so.”
    “What I remember is how you’d see things, notice what nobody else noticed. Well, you’ve got a good view now, and time to look. So take your time.”

    “You coming?”
    “Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ve just got one more thing to see.”

  6. Abbey Childs says:

    Lost and Found

    I looked in all the usual places,
    The desk drawer
    The trash can
    The pocket of my heavy winter coat.
    I looked in coffee cups and take-out boxes
    The backs of old receipts
    And the box I kept of letters you wrote me.

    I searched the bottom of your closet as I helped you move out.
    I thought maybe you didn’t want me to find it
    So I held my tongue and said nothing.

    It’s only now
    Watching your tail lights bleed into the night
    That I find “goodbye.”

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