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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 Album

I 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.

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