In Search of Things Lost


A sepia-gray day at Beaver Creek Park:
July, 1936. My father, Max, who will die young,
stands erect and sure with his friend, Phil Freeman,
whose head tips shyly toward the camera.
Both men look happy, lean, alive.
Phil’s boy, whose name has vanished, stands struggling
in front of them. A solid boy with thick, dark hair
low across his forehead,
a boy in a summer bathrobe whose head also tilts,
forward and down, his contorted mouth expressing—
it must be—a rage the men cannot see.

For in their pure affection they smile
as they grip him tight:
Phil’s hand cups the boy’s left arm
as his thumb presses into the flesh,
while my father—an amiable though childless man—
poses symmetrically with Phil, his two hands set heavily
on the boy’s shoulders, the left hand encircling the neck
as the boy strains to lunge out of the picture.

The boy is maybe thirteen. Only he
is clothed above the waist.
It must be a Sunday.

At the very center of the picture, above the boy’s head
and almost touching Phil’s right ear, a tiny figure,
a woman in white, approaches on the path
among the faraway trees.
Most of the picture is sky.

Not everything can be understood.
I stare and stare—at the four unbalanced figures,
at the large empty space above them,
searching for knowledge,
for my father, my father’s youth.

There was future to the scene: 1955, Phil as I knew him,
shy and exuberant, a family friend
to Max’s widow and child; ten years then since the war,
Phil’s son long away from home.

Now from nowhere
the affable, thick face and form of Bessie Freeman
come to me, mother of the dark, wretched boy:
a vivid, useless truth that only minutes ago
I could not have imagined knowing.  Her slow image
swells to fill a sector of the blank prospect.

~ Naomi Myrvaagnes ~