Friday, January 06, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 041

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Those photos in family albums, what do they show us about the lives of people, and what don't they tell? What are they holding back? Here Diane Thiel, who teaches in New Mexico, peers into one of those pictures.

Family Album

I like old photographs of relatives
in black and white, their faces set like stone.
They knew this was serious business.
My favorite album is the one that's filled
with people none of us can even name.

I find the recent ones more difficult.
I wonder, now, if anyone remembers
how fiercely I refused even to stand
beside him for this picture -- how I shrank
back from his hand and found the other side.

Forever now, for future family,
we will be framed like this, although no one
will wonder at the way we are arranged.
No one will ever wonder, since we'll be
forever smiling there -- our mouths all teeth.

Reprinted from "Echolocations," Story Line Press, 2000, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2000 by Diane Thiel, whose most recent book is "Resistance Fantasies," Story Line Press, 2004. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

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