Family Photo, Then and Now

Family Photo, then and now


The faces of my family look happy and calm

Bending and folding the light,

time curving the wind,

rusting in our tissue paper faces,

our fissures hidden in blown up flesh.


In my memory, there is never one of any of us,

I don’t look back along time but down through it, like water.

Sometimes one thing comes to the surface and sometimes another.

The picture is early evening,

One of those watercolor washes the city comes up with in fall,

Velvety and cool, like the muzzles of dogs.


My mother is very pale, like a body under a bathing suit,

Her touch glows on my shoulder like a burnt out match.

I smell my father, his fuggy leather, underneath smell I used to love,

Tall and avuncular.

My sister looks oddly flat,

like she was squeezed out of one those old fashioned wringers

and pressed like a flower in a book.


I look lighter, as if I am shedding matter,

losing molecules,

leaching calcium from my bones

and cells from my blood.

I flare up in an obliterary silence.

dissolving like a thinning mist into

a vast empty space.

I must have been running away.


We are all as ephemeral as insect wings

Yet stuck with dull weight of being human,

A paradox in the glimmering air,

All our pasts touched by many pasts.


The trick of the light in the past tense

marking time, taut in the protective coating the camera

has lent to all of us,

one that can never last.

This picture colors the air I move in now.

Clouds of breath formed into words,

Smile now.


But we are hiding in the light,

disquise is always easier when we are young.

and slippery forgiveness,

that sideways step out of my own body,

out of time into another time,

has cleaned up all the biographies.


Finally we look like mortality has a hook in all of us,

everything hovering on the verge of becoming real.

Heartbite after heartbite,

feeding on what is missing.

Anything to mummify ourselves,

to stop the drip-drip of time.


After all,

time has stopped,

for just a moment,

and refused to let us go.


RM Jan 2019