|Jul/Aug 2016 Poetry|
Photographic Artwork by Victoria Mlady
When, I wonder, did family photo-takers
begin to coax, tease, demand
smiles from their subjects?
Through two albums, three generations
of black and white pictures
there is hardly a smile to be found,
at most no more than strained politeness.
Here is my mother, a young girl
among older sisters,
a baby in the foreground
and all of their faces staid.
Was it something peculiar to us?
Here am I at two beside my brother,
wearing his handed-down sunsuit,
both solemnly staring ahead.
Easters, outings, on a backyard swing
we are trapped, waiting escape.
Whoever was facing us,
peering down into the Brownie,
intent on focus and frame,
saying, "Hold still. Look up,"
caught us as we weren't.
Let go, the baby reaches up
to her mother, smiling down.
The others move apart,
breath released, talk resumed.
The photographer comes forward,
holding our would-be history
shuttered, waiting in a box.
Set free, my brother and I
return to the toys we had dropped,
to that moment of summer,
Our faces, our hair take on color,
the washline accidentally caught
creaks and sways to life.