Posing with Willow

In one photo I was wearing my Sunday suit,

leaning on a little cane,

showing a mouthful of

disorderly teeth.


It was summer.

You could tell by the willows,

and it was not Sunday

because I remember goofing around

that day, finding a little black cane 

in the back of the garage,

then putting on my Sunday best,

and walking around in the back yard,

trying to speak with an English accent. 


In another, the photo was slightly blurred. 

I had been captured in motion;

my legs spread apart, my knees slightly bent,

my arms thrown wide, my fingers clenched, my thumbs

held high, my teeth now lassoed in metal and wire,

my tongue and my lips saying Ayyyyyyyyyy!


And one from an earlier time

was black and white.

Surely one of the last my mother took

with her old brownie camera.

I was perched on the seat of the farmall tractor;

one hand holding the wheel, the other the stick. 

You could not see my eyes

because I was looking down.

You could not see my teeth 

though I was smiling.

All my father’s ribbons and medals

were pinned to my jacket.

I was probably wearing cowboy boots,

but they were dangling out of the frame.


And then there was that one which was really a picture of my sister.

Summer again, you could tell by the willows.

My sister, lithe as a willow, dressed in her red and white

softball uniform, holding her glove

to her slender hip.


You couldn’t tell by the picture, but she was fast!

Pure speed, supernatural speed.

Running down fly balls in left field

like she was in a race with the devil,

and Satan was stumbling

out of the blocks,

then happy to stop—


just to watch her run.


The willows hung like curtains

in that picture as though they were

cloaking gaffers and props-men setting

a second act,


and by the looks of things,

I could have been playing Huckleberry

with my jeans rolled up to my knees,

my bare feet touching 

the water’s surface

of the pool in the background.


But I could never be sure

the way my face was turned to the water,

like I was seeing something I’d see in myself

for too many years.


It almost looks 

like serious John 

the one who stopped 

posing for pictures,


the one who stopped,

for a while,

imagining what the willows 

were saying. 

(from Medicine, Foothills Publishing, 2017)

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