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Immigrant Cover
Pages from a Scrapbook of Immigrants - 1988

The Photograph

He finds it in his mother’s drawer of souvenirs,
blurred and bent: an out‑of‑focus photograph
as brown and cracked as leather.
The trees and foliage arch like feathers.
There is a house, one story, in the rear,
behind the lumpy humans growing up—
those arms and shoulders so rigidly posed,
those faces like smudged thumbprints on a wall.
He must recognize these children—
by a slouch, a shape, a tilt of the head—
as his uncles and aunts. One daughter
is massive, and the other, the boy’s mother,
is as slim and tall as her eldest brother
and the man who sits stiff‑backed in front
beside the round little woman in a shawl.

The details of each shape are so off‑center,
the photo looks as if it had been taken
at the instant people, house, and trees
were shaken by an earthquake or a wind.
The more he looks at it, the more the boy
cannot be sure of where this is, or when.
The house could be in Kovno, Vilna, or Canarsie.
Is this his uncle, really? That his aunt?
The photo could belong to someone else.
This family could be anyone’s.


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