Beth Feldman Brandt

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Long-lost characters

In the heirloom photo, three women pose,
sepia and close-mouthed, enduring
bad teeth or a grim Kiev winter.
The matriarch, whose name no one remembers,
wears a white knotted head scarf
and clenches her right hand in her lap.
Rose, slim-waisted and straight-backed,
challenges the camera.
Her sister, Miriam, in high-collared black,
looks aside.
They all have our eyes.

What would they make of us,
their great-greats and their greats,
with our bared bellies and loose-limbed androgyny,
our husbands and wives who came here
from not here and found us to love,
our bilingual babies,
our speed-read Seders and Easter baskets
and Christmas trees in the living room.

We are the ones who return to the house
our father built, amazing him each time
with all the women he has spawned.
In the backyard, we snap ourselves,
bountiful and large, our heads
blond and dark and grey,
leaning together, laughing at Zoey
swatting her mother's dangly earring,
smiling our wide white American smiles
at our great-greats and their greats,
posing for the story they will make of us.

 

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