An Inherited Album


You’re in Atlantic City, lying on the sand,
a nymph washed up on the beach, a 40s-era
Botticelli drained of color, your lips looking black
though I know they were red;

you’re posing with one pale dimpled knee on the birdbath,
trying to look vampy;
you’re sitting in a dress with stripes cinching to a v at your waist,
your hair coiffed just so,
a million hidden bobby pins nestling at your scalp,
which is shockingly bright against your dark hair.

You are bathing my father in the sink,
and you are both smiling real smiles with all of your real teeth.

There’s your husband with his hat at a rakish angle,
effortlessly suave, though I’m sure someone,
probably you, positioned the hat. I wonder how you all
stood to live in the thick of all that glamour.

You were a consummate artist,
you designed how you would be seen,
but it was not a screen, a facade,
the illusion encompassed the entire thing.
The position of your hand in an idle moment would pass scrutiny,
even the candlesticks were of the highest quality.

You pruned my grandfather like an arrangement,
and he quenched the cut ends with gin and quietly hated you
while he racked up awards for being the most excellent insurance salesman.

What you might have been had you had the option.
But my father said being a carpenter was lofty enough.
It was, after all, the paid occupation of Jesus.