Volume 24, Number 3

Family Portrait

the startle of it
that the lens of somebody
as good as my one-third kin
should have frozen them
shivering hunched
by some bushes
and one bare tree
in front of bored soldiers
and straight and tall
volunteer militia in fedoras
and long overcoats
a mismatched group
at the foot of a low hillside
for a moment still

brother grandsire
mother and boy-child
and father still man
anticipating the drawn-out
moment's end
the only possible gesture
two soft leaves
folded over
the place of generations

there will be next
the startle boom
and stanchless wounds
to take down the trunk
the limbs and branches

in the spare grayscale scene
he bows to the bringer
of weal and woe

I am afraid
you did not spare
the smallest sprig
to root again
in the dark-soiled land.

—Warren Meredith Harris