Roger Pfingston



a photograph, 2004  

In that moment of point and shoot

(the ritual of photos after the noon meal,

later framed 4x6 or album bound)

the families gather by name,

bunch up tight to smile and frown,

the few who always close their eyes.

Someone says, "Mom, let's get one

of you and your sisters together." 

And so they form again in the soft light

of maple shade, alive and well,

though two will pass in as many years,

but now the elder sits composed

in a lawn chair while the others

stand behind, chattering like schoolgirls. 

How engaged they are, the plain

beauty of their print dresses,

picnic tables covered still with cloth

and plastic, bowls and pans empty

or half-filled, a potluck of 35

or 40, the new generations greeting

the old like friendly strangers. 

Four hundred years their collective age,

these sisters born at the close or just

after the Great War, Depression teens

and brides, small-town Indiana mothers

whose husbands hurried ahead,

the weight of the world reduced

to a bearable measure of clay and stone:

Lorene's David, Esther's Walter, Stella's

James, Mary's Russell, Tillie's Jim.  



Two weeks ago our neighbor died

when her mind, altered by dementia,

betrayed her body and she OD'd

on Coumadin. The day before,

as we walked by, her husband           

had put his rake aside to talk

about their upcoming 50th,

his face beaming at such a feat.

Five more years for us, you'd said,

beaming back as you spread

the five fingers of your raised hand.


Today, mid-afternoon, we ignore

our own rule (You'll spoil your supper!),

the two of us like a couple of kids

standing at the kitchen counter,

milk and plate in hand,

banana bread cooling in its pan,

your stepmother's recipe

a yellowed clipping from a small

town paper, sweet Anne, 94,

a state away in that other home.


When our daughter calls, sobbing

her friend's news—six months—

we push our plates away to sit 

and talk a while, the day

as random as any with its

vinegar and honey, before we

find our way back to milk and bread.

Roger Pfingston has work in recent issues of Sin Fronteras and Lumina and a poem in the fall issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review.  He also has photographs coming out in Limestone and New Letters.



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