Shadows

The three of us pose in a photo memorializing
my spiritual confirmation in the Lutheran Church.

My mother on my right, Father on my left.
I’m the thirteen-year-old boy wedged between them
as if a slight shift of their bodies toward the center
would make me to disappear.

Mother and I look into the camera, Father gazes off to his left.
June sun casts shadows below our squinting eyes and
shields our vulnerability from the camera’s lens.

Mother’s face reflects stoic acceptance,
Father’s mouth hints a wary smile.
A forced grin belies my anxiety.

Mother wears a short-sleeved, frayed dress,
one hand snuggled in her right torn pocket,
her hair bobby-pinned behind each ear.

Father’s white shirt open at the collar,
dark rumpled pants held up by a belt
below a protruding stomach.
He clasps a bottle of beer in his left hand,
extended away from his side, an attempt
to hide it from the camera’s eye.
His right arm around the back of my head,
his hand rests on my mother’s left shoulder.
I wear a suit, white shirt, and narrow tie.
A white carnation on my left lapel,
its fragile edges crumpling against my father’s side.

Does the camera’s lens discern that I am the lapel flower,
crushed between my father’s unpredictable rage
and my mother’s despair?

Is the camera able to sound us, as in navigation,
to plumb the hidden depth of our love?

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After closing his practice of 35 years in 2011 as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and with the publication of his first collection of poems, “A Heart on Fire, Poems from the Flames,” in 2014, David C. Weiss has been devoted to writing poetry and leading workshops for new poets. He is on the faculty of OLLI College at the University of Southern Maine and a visiting instructor of poetry at Sera Jhy Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in South India. David plays the “shakuhachi,” a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute used by monks of the “Fuke” school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of “suizen” (blowing meditation). He earned his Master of Theology and Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology degrees from Boston University. You can follow David on his website.

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