Early this morning
I was paging through
my great-grandmother's photo album
last night. Alone, just one lamp alight
at ttwo-thirty in the morning.
I couldn't sleep. Restlessness
had awakened the dog and she
was outside sniffing the night.
Sepia-toned or black and white
photos stared at me from
a hundred and fifty years ago.
Perhaps more. Stiff, solid,
implacable. Many of the faces
are lost to time, their stories
silenced. Photos on cardboard:
meant to last. They have.
Still edgy, I wandered the dining room.
Peeked out the window.
Back yard lights
create odd, wandering shapes
as if something were out of place.
The dog, standing, at full alert,
listened to the movement of the shadows.
Then, as if shrugging off the night,
returned to the door.
She looks at me, her water dish
as if to ask, 'Why is it empty?'
Filling it at the fridge,
I look at photos, notes, and birthdays cards
held up by souvenir magnets.
A drawn card from a child we know,
a memorial photo, a list of chores to complete.
Another album of our lives.
I sit, mind too busy to sleep,
at the kitchen table. It is cluttered with
the detritus of our daily lives. Mail, catalogs,
flashlights, a blood pressure machine.
Wishing I liked a cup of tea,
it feels right, but I settle for a glass
of water. I really need to organize this stuff--
but not now. I'd only move everything
This too is a collection of us-ness.
Telling, I suppose, in its chaos,
of who we are what with three pencil jars
of assorted pens, dog bones, a feather,
a bracelet hanging off a marker, at least
three screwdrivers and a drumstick.
My coffee cup from last night,
forgotten, half-empty. The stove clock
clicks over to three-fifteen. I need
to be up in an hour.
The dog's gone back to sleep, curled
on my pillow. I lie in a bed that's
almost two hundred years old.
I curl onto my side. The years expand and
condense in time to her gentle snoring.
The edges blur and I feel myself slipping
back into sleep. Albums, I muse.
Exactly what we are. Maybe I
just want that illusive reassurance.
I don't want to be a blurred face
in a photo with some great-great-great
wondering who I was, wondering what
my story was. I want to jump out
of the past and exclaim that
I was this and did that and went here
and lived there. I loved grand
and glorious loves. I found, lost.
I climbed, fell, and got up again.
But most of all, I lived! I existed.
And a part of me is in them,
encoded into the who and what
they are or could be. Laughter, curiosity,
wonder and an insatiable
desire to learn and explore. It will
be all there, curled in their DNA
just waiting to explode out of them
as it has in me of those long gone.