My son Josh loves to follow me around the studio, helping me rearrange drapery and backdrops from the bucolic to the sinister. When he was born, I gave up a government clerkship to spend more time with him, using my savings to open up a photography store where I charge $50 for a single portraiture.
Josh can be a handful when he’s not busy – sitting still to him is about as lonesome and as boring as banishing him to the ends of the earth. I always need to invent new toys for him; the ones I buy, like Fisher Price, never last as long and they make a large dent in my wallet.
One particular morning, he’s being extremely difficult while I’m trying to pose a new mother and her wailing infant for a picture. He tugs at my shirt, staring wide-eyed at the crying baby.
“Let me help mom,” he says.
A migraine begins to gather between my brows and I can already feel a faint throbbing when I grab an old camera that I had been meaning to get fixed, but never did. I press it into his hands.
“You can be my number two.” I try to smile, feeling half-wilted. “Get ready to help me shoot.”
He shuffles off, intent with his new plaything and I think no more of it until the baby abruptly stops howling and gurgles. I rattle a few props to try to get her attention, but her gaze wanders behind my right shoulder. I turn around and there is Josh, photographing the toy horse I gave to him for his last birthday.
He smiles sheepishly.
I gesture him to move his horse and camera closer to my side. Whooping, Josh gallops towards me on his steed, the camera’s strap waving in one hand like a lasso.
The baby laughs brightly and I have the perfect photo.
My mother goes wandering, on this remembrance day
Where she alights or flies to, I’m not sure where she stays
I can only pray to her mother, for safekeeping and providence
For where can a mother go, but to her own mother for guidance.
Litter the attic landing
In windfall, like leaves from
My grandmother must have
Lingered fingers reverently
On ghost-pale faces —
Dear aunts and uncles.
In recollection of a memory
I cherish strangers;
One day, she shall enshrine
The memory of my daughter of me.
Here is something I learned from my mother:
Non-acceptable ways of venting anxiety include
Complaining to friends
But cleaning the house puts not only your home in order
It gives you time to put yourself in order
The rusted red wagon
Anchored by granddad on the porch
Once roamed the seas
With little boys battling Midway
And in royal gold filigree
Pulled Ms. Queen the border collie
On bumpy London cobblestones
It cradled the sod for mom’s petunias
And spilled with cloying sweetness —
A childhood Garden of Babylon.
Mothers give you the whole wishbone;
They tell you half-dreams are an impossibility —
That all the goodness in your future
Is already yours
Upon the steed’s back
The boy waves his wooden sword
Mother holds the reins
I have no sisters
I have no mother
Why ask for understanding and love
When I must cry my tears alone
Where no one can see them
I never once imagined that those places
I loved in childhood would be changed
Or razed or disturbed into forms both alien and familiar
That the corner nook would be filled with dishes instead of books
The white walls washed a sprightly crimson and black
The woman behind the counter who smiled crookedly disappeared
Along with the cook’s milk jello which lingers on my tongue
A memory of both my mother and a lazy summer day;
I see the new façade but still see the old
Superimposed on each other
Present and Postcognition embraced
During a crisis, I once asked my mother if she were ever happy
And with shaking voice, she replied she had never been
Since she married my father
My heart plummeted
Would I suffer the same fate?
But it must be a lie
These photographs show a woman, young and content
Brimming with joy and love for the children in her arms
How easily we believe
“We will never be happy again”
When we are sad