In the photo of the blue raft I don’t remember
you are reaching one arm out, staring

straight at our mother, whose hands
do not yet shake when holding a camera.

This is the past where nobody flinches,
the moment you climb away from our father

becoming the moment where always
you will climb away from the shadow of his hand.

You do not know that in nine more winters
to please the voices in the attic of my mind

I will throw into the frost-storm
every suit our father owns, will toss

the locked-in pageant of the music box,
relic from before the disaster,

its dancer a flock of electric lines cut,
and you will gather what I’ve offered to snow.

You don’t yet know that while our mother
will sleep, all season blanketed by shock,

past the wrecked spires of the topiaries
I will drive you home from school,

waiting in the carpool line, hot breath
of a song I don’t know on the back of my neck

and seeing your head in its red hat lowered
as the families around you assemble.

But in this photo it is not yet winter,
in this photo what exists is not the future

but only the gesture toward it
and not the fact of our father’s leaving,

only his white shirt rippling over your chest
and the second the yellow pail rolls away

as you turn to the balled fist of a wave
and squint, trying to see him.


Matthew Gellman