Family Photograph

A raised verandah.  Sunlight.  Fourteen smiles
fix for the shutter. Two older faces freeze,
lips rigid with belief. The rest remember, hide
their tensions from the lens, share fear here, wait —
their patience set and circumspect. We see
a family complete — well, nearly. George
is in his room — has been for days and shapes
he sees in corners will be smiling too
and sliding out by now. Soon reaching claws
will rake the counterpane.

And in the second row a vacant space
that someone hasn’t closed, a gap that they
left there when Jean was gently led away.
Verandah lace frames serge and shoulders, rows
of waistcoats chained to watches, brooches, waists
nipped in with taffeta, capes tiered to chins
gripped briefly by the underside of smiles.

And smile they should. This afternoon they wear
their comforts easily. The things that they
believe their eyes and smiles are hiding (things
kept fettered for the photograph) will be
released again tomorrow but today
goes well enough, goes very well indeed –
considering.

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