Those photos in family albums, what do they show us about the lives of people, and what don’t they tell? What are they holding back? Here Diane Thiel, who teaches in New Mexico, peers into one of those pictures.
Family AlbumI like old photographs of relatives in black and white, their faces set like stone. They knew this was serious business. My favorite album is the one that’s filled with people none of us can even name. I find the recent ones more difficult. I wonder, now, if anyone remembers how fiercely I refused even to stand beside him for this picture—how I shrank back from his hand and found the other side. Forever now, for future family, we will be framed like this, although no one will wonder at the way we are arranged. No one will ever wonder, since we’ll be forever smiling there—our mouths all teeth.
Reprinted from Echolocations, Story Line Press, 2000, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2000 by Diane Thiel, whose most recent book is Resistance Fantasies (Story Line Press, 2004). This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.