The family photo Mother wanted.
My parents and five siblings
dress in ill-fitting suits,
plain black and plaid dresses
with little Edna in the smock she loved.
My older sisters stand in back,
Mother and Father sit stiffly
with twins Ella and me held in front.
Brother Albert is slumped in a chair
head down, leaning forward
in an oversized coat and knickers.
His hands balled-up clumps
on his lap, his face puffy
below a choppy bowl haircut.
Dark circles rim his eyes.
He can’t grin, though
sister Florence wears a smirk
with a big flower in her hair.
Augusta the eldest stands stoic and tall
with her watch on a necklace
to know when it’s time to leave.
No one smiles for the camera,
as we stand in front of our stucco house
with the stone foundation Father built.
Weedy patches dot the foreground
and behind us windows
reflect bare trees--
the last scene of us all.
Father carried that picture with him
overseas into the war--
we dutifully blessed his departure
but only the photo came home.
(first published in Clerk of the Dead by
Main Street Rag Publishing, 2020)