The family sits on a raised porch,
looking decidedly severe
as they gaze from the yellowed picture
curled at the edges, just as the year 1899
must have slowly curled itself from the calendar
to make way for a new century.
Dead center, the father sits in a rocker,
his wife straight and steadfastly by his side
from fear or duty—it is impossible to tell.
Her long dress stops just short
of black leather shoes laced tighter
than her speech under forbidding gables
out of frame, where the five children,
Collars pinching their throats,
must have whooped at war games
during summer truces made possible
by pie and, later, the shade of an elm
in the side yard where the iron pump handle
And yet this parallel universe
slides unobtrusively through time.
There is thought etched into the father’s brow,
unhappiness in the mother’s glare.
Obedience and dreams sit on the cheeks
of the children, too young
to contemplate childbirth and the graveyard
and all that lies between.