in the photos bundled in the back of the drawer.
My mother’s heart-shaped face with wideset eyes
leaps out at me in her group of schoolgirls
though she stands at the back. Never one
to push herself forward. Lillian has a longer face,
higher forehead, grinning wildly, eyes ready
for a smart quip, a silly gag. Eyes meant to shine.
In neat enough script on the back of the pic,
Baby Doll Party. A date ninety years ago.
Teenage Lillian with white peonies pinned in her hair,
a belted romper, crouched down with a friend,
two others with upraised arms. London Bridge.
I don’t pick her out right away.
I’ve never met her, my aunt dying in her twenties.
She looks like someone familiar–of course–
my Aunt Florence maybe or one of the cousins,
Lithuanian born. Not me though.
I resemble the Polish relatives on the other side.
Thin nose like theirs, a modest cliff, red hair, lanky limbed.
I’ve never seen them in real life, photos nonexistent.
Just a landsmen’s word for it.
An elderly almost-relative my father visited
from time to time. Mordcha, she looks just like your mother,
they’d say, using his old name.
Who am I, not a limb marred by war.
Shadow-scarred. Nothing more.
Karen Mandell has witten Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Rose Has a New Walker, a book of poetry. She’s taught writing to high school and college students and literature to adults living in community senior centers.
There’s so much we want to know about before. Photos can help, but never quite enough. Beautifully done!