Ancestors

All my mothers are here
in their best dresses: mother
grandmothers, great-grandmothers;

of the men only my father
posed with cigarette in hand
and my grandfather on the sofa.

They look from their frames past one another
and toward me in this room like saints
in a sacra conversazione,

their smiles solemn and uncertain
as if they knew already that they must
in the here and now of these photographs

bridge great distances, continents
generations, keep us whole somehow
as we move far and further

from them, that it will take years
maybe lifetimes of forgetting
before their work is over.

First to go, their voices and ways of moving
then birthdays, deathdays, and all
the emblems by which we once knew them.

From The Garden of Persuasions, Jacar Press, 2013

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