Family Photo

Mom. Dad. First born,
middle and me. Taken by
early 80s flashbulb at
St. Bartholomew’s—
my mother’s
episcopal church. Already
I see the bewildered, growing
knowing in my mother’s face that
this captured smiling moment
is dissolving. Unseen
in the short exposure capturing
our flesh faces, Mom’s
lipstick— she’s breaking.
God has recently abandoned
her, left her to the wild dogs barking
in her head –
soon she will abandon
us. Dad will rage against his
helplessness then he
will leave too –
for Paris, Switzerland, Japan.
Her steel-throated depression
will make us mute, trap us, ensure
all our fractures won’t heal—
Invisible barbed threads
will grow inside us,
bind us painfully to each
other. That’s
what’s coming. Right
now, we’re just holding
our breath waiting for the
walls to fold, ceiling to cave in. I still
feel it. The acute distress
of family. My fear of their fear—
my parents’ terrible
disassembling as life simply
happened to us, the unprecedented
shock that what we thought was
supposed to be, wasn’t.
For me, the first intimation that
love is affliction—
no time or geography, not
even death can stop
how we bleed into one another.