Packing Up Old Photo Albums
A dusty family album on a shelf,
a photograph of relatives long dead:
a boozy garden party, leis, straw hats --
they toast the camera behind jovial masks.
In the transubstantiation of the flash
their faces are miraculously young,
until memory adjusts its lens
and a lost world swims into focus.
It must have been shortly after the War.
There are no children in the scene
or swelling abdomens:
most look barely past their teens,
returning conquerors before
the fog of peace enveloped them.
Who knows what bawdy tales they shared
in this exuberance of youth,
as sweat beaded their drinks and beers
and dampened the plaid tablecloth?
Who knows who flirted, who was shy?
Life shimmers in the Kodachrome:
the slant of sunlight on a glass,
a flag stirred by an unfelt wind.
This uncle’s life was filled with pain,
his mind gutted by electroshock.
The peace he found came on a moonlit beach,
casting for silvery striped bass
that gleamed as they were reeled onto the sand.
The woman in the grass skirt was my mother.
She stands apart, eyes hidden from my gaze,
a drink held in one slender hand,
sunglasses in the other. The sky
was either clear or threatening rain.
Phil Keller is a 70-year-old recovering lawyer living in Montpelier, Vermont. He began writing poetry about 10 years ago after the last of his children left the house and he suddenly found himself with empty time on his hands. He has previously been published in Prairie Schooner and The Wine Cellar Press.
The Ekphrastic Review
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