All I have is this picture
taken on a porch sometime around 1896,
at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.
My grandmother dressed in white
with tight little girl curls
framing her face;
her father sits in military dress,
almost at attention, his eyes unfocused.
My great-grandmother reclines in a hammock.
I stare at this picture,
frayed around the edges, searching
His mother sits in a rocking chair
on the far right, separated by a pillar.
My great-grandmother at sixteen
stares at the camera,
perhaps insolent, perhaps indolent, perhaps
pregnant with an unwanted child.
Family stories say
her mother-in-law was strict.
I don’t know.
My grandmother, that little girl in white,
ran away with a traveling salesman
when she was sixteen,
all the way to California
just before World War I,
perhaps carrying this very
tiny blue glass perfume bottle,
its top decorated with a tassle that I pack away.
I fold up a receiving blanket
embroidered with white silk,
and look again at birth dates marked
in an old baby book. Family.
This poem comes from Sunday Scribblings prompt on family. I've long wanted to write about this photo. You can click on the photo to see a larger image.