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OVER MY SHOULDER

Don't Look Back. Something Might Be Gaining on You
—Satchel Paige

As I flip backwards through the album
the family is young and growing younger.
Background foliage, almost real,
frames strabismic cousins innocent
of spinsterhood, aunties free of pregnancies,

my mother with healthy heart and no
regrets, her oldest son still focused, her
younger's slanted smile. Here, my father's
amputated finger strums his mandolin.

One slim sister half-turns to her husband
erasing all the silent years ahead.
The other leans a smooth cheek
up against the shadow of an arm.

And I'm still wearing tap shoes and my
tight-rope walker's smile. Only my bearded
grandfather dies inward like a tree while
grandmother shifts slowly through the album.

Uncle Dave's nineteen again before the current
drags him down. All of us, warm and urgent
unaware of empty places waiting to be filled
by negatives yet to be developed.

      — Ruth Daigon