“Spoken by a Photograph” by Scott Thomas


We have been called “windows to the past,” but that’s
Not right. Windows show the snow forming a bulb
On the bird bath pedestal while you stay warm.
For us, there is no sleet to keep out, no world beyond
Our pane of ink. It is gone. It does not move.
My task is to show you 1957 as best I can.
On the floor of the cottage porch sits your mother
Laughing and young. Fred is lying on his back
Looking at her, must have said something to her.
(In your memory, Fred had only one arm,
The other one shorn by a sausage machine in 1962.)
Great Uncle Frank is here. His fish net snags
Your memory; the noise of his Johnson outboard
Approaching the dock at dusk, but your memory
Is of the future. He was an old man by then.
My job is to show you his pipe-smoking middle age.
Here is your grandma, some assorted relatives,
And on my right (your left), slightly unfocused, wearing
A wrinkled fall jacket and a skull cap that says Lincoln,
Your grandpa playing a white accordion. Within six years,
You will be alive. Within twelve years, he will be dead.
1957… Long before you swung on the swing
And watched mosquitoes spin
Over the gasoline box with Danger on it.
1957… Longer still before you pissed in a 3 AM drizzle
With your wife and child asleep inside the cottage.
Of the night when the white accordion played,
You remember nothing, and the songs I show you now
Are silent and the channel cat splashes no longer.
Your relations are as immortal as I can render… no more.
If you asked them, if they could answer, I am sure they
Would want to be where you are far into the future,
Well beyond the graceless bounds of their flesh,
And, conversely, if a door stood by my window,
You would gladly step into 1957 with your jacket on
Just to hear the bankrupt train beyond the mountain,
Your grandfather play a lost tune. Take note
Of him squeezing out the meter, eyes
Distracted by the love of song
As verse follows verse into the lost air.
No need to step through. You’re already there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Thomas‘ background includes a B.A. in Creative Writing/Literature from Bard College, a M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University, and a M.A. in English from the University of Scranton.  He has work published or forthcoming in Mankato Poetry Review, The Kentucky Poetry Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, Webster Review, Poetry East, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Poem, Philadelphia Stories, Poetry Bay, Floyd County Moonshine, Talking River, Willard & Maple, and Pointed Circle.  (facebook.com/scott.thomas.1675275)