Past lives

When you haul out the old photos from the box, they

lie on the table, faded black and white, names written

on the back long ago, by someone preparing for the day


no living friends would summon them over for coffee,

or offer a ride to the beach. Today your grandson looks

on as you pull up relations like weeds from some long


untended garden. He has the easy part, to hold the edges

still, while you decipher faces, unearth connections.

His feet, in long purple sneakers, stretch beneath the table.


One early photo shows his great-grandmother riding

her husband’s shoulders. She laughs. Even though you both

know she never did in later life, her small face always pinched


and pruned. The pile seems never ending, one old photo

after another. Early autos. A pony. Someone’s calico

cat. Domestic scenes. The military. The boy never complains,


says nothing, until you come to the photo of him as

an infant, lying against your chest, both of you with eyes

closed. Look at that, he says. We are all asleep.


Published in:


Oct./Nov. 2015