In these ancient snapshots Sunday is always ablaze.
If it is Christmas, your father is hurrying to hide
the fir tree beneath the cellar stairs.
Grandfather’s whiskers brush near, a steely wool.
Uncle is eating with his mouth moistly open, the teeth
too big. And there are whispers you can’t hear.
Prayers for the dead not to be recorded.
(When we were children, you say. If we were children.)
In these documents it is your strategy to remember nothing.
Those slow-munching jaws, those balloon pupae.
(The snapshots show you all curls and dimples and shy
shadowed eyes. It is always noon and a tide of light.
You are always smiling, blind.)
Look—there are creatures swimming as if idly
out of the room’s dark corners. Rising from the mud.
There are avuncular whiskers, gruff jutting underlips,
pewter eyes that seem to wink,
although they do not.
A Swedish biochemist says it is his life’s wish
to know life. As in “life phenomena.”
In these ancient snapshots there are no explanations,
no captions. There is no speech.
Surprised in silence, and usually smiling,
the beloved dead.
When we were children.