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Family Picture, 1964

by Jim Benz

My father,
sunk into a deep
black chair,
has his legs crossed
exposing a white
hairless calf above his sock.

A magazine
lies open in his lap
and his eyes
have the blank stare
of a man displeased
with cameras.

On the arm of his chair
my mother sits
with down-cast eyes
and one hand
clenched into a fist.
These are my parents.

Taking the picture
is my Grandmother.
She can be seen
only in body language
and the hard stare
of my father’s eyes.

Thirty six years later
I’m sunk into a chair
pulling this photo
from an envelope.
I’ve never seen
these people before.

12/19/2005

Author's Note: included as part of a Dance/Spokenword/Music performance at Bloomington Art Center (2008) and soon to be published as part of a follow-up chap book.

Posted on 12/20/2005
Copyright © 2020 Jim Benz

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Gregory O'Neill on 12/20/05 at 06:31 AM

What great writing, Jim. I can see the those people, your details are outstanding. 36 years, gone in a blink....and I never new them. Yes!

Posted by Maureen Glaude on 12/20/05 at 02:06 PM

How haunting and effective. In class we did assignments on poems based on photos we were given, of people we didn't even know. It's a great combo of image work and language, and painting the scene from the past. Superb job, a severe sadness there. Many years ago of course, there was a type of photography or innovation in which most of the subjects look terrified. Interesting subject.

Posted by Ashok Sharda on 12/20/05 at 04:57 PM

The associatedness is what evokes associations from deep within. The quality of thoughts depends on the quality of energies which in turn depends on the quality and intensity of the association. This is a sad case where associatedness exists but in the absence of any association registered deep fails to take any shape.

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 01/10/06 at 05:37 AM

more shivers up my spine. Yes, the last line a shocker - in its oh-so-accurate capture of emotional truth.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 04/17/06 at 11:36 AM

I can see the photo through the picture you've drawn here. Very vivid image. Excellent write Jim

Posted by Lauren Singer on 08/16/07 at 03:45 AM

whoa. the end floored me.

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