For five years, Charles paints pictures of a slender teenaged girl whose face is never fully revealed. Sometimes, there is the jut of her shoulder blades on a low halter dress or an ankle lifted to better show off the gemstone set in the center of her heel. The hair is bobbed, long, or curled, but always the same wispy blond of fading sunlight.
His patrons think she is a past lover, a child lost too soon to the world, his soul trying on a new identity, a new gender. But she is his mother as he does not know her, for no child can know their mother as the child she was, once upon a time.
In that, Charles (even unwanted, abandoned) is reassured that he is just like all other sons.
on the train ride home
with blue and yellow rods
in the middle
a protective father
who took both his son
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.
A boy embraces the keys of a piano
And runs his fingers where another once played.
If he sits still, the instrument warms.
If he closes his eyes, he can smell tobacco.
Soon, he hears the full-bodied laugh
Which trembles through him like brontide
And sweeps him
To where his father might be.