In one photo I was wearing my Sunday suit,
leaning on a little cane,
showing a mouthful of
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
(from Medicine, Foothills Publishing, 2017)