Maybe the glare is why she scowls as she turns,
the shutter convulsing in the handheld camera
her husband keeps between his open eye and her,
but I’d wager my life that he said something cruel,
focused tight on her nape with its gossamer curls,
then tapped the button, not noticing her pursed brow,
her downturned mouth, only the fluid way the strap
of her bathing suit rounds her back, spans the hollow
from shoulder to collar bone. Buckling shakes and stucco
bake in the summer light beyond her. This is half
of the split-frame photo. To the overcast sky
that burns out the other, his left hand holds aloft,
as if for sacrifice, some orphaned animal,
a puppy or kitten, its details mostly lost
to the brilliance above (nothing automatic
back then) and below too, where the sun strikes his watch.
Squinting at me as if I weren’t her grandson,
she stares through the greater part of a century,
distrustful, but not used to feeling such disdain,
bracing herself as if for necessary pain.
Eric Berlin’s poems have won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, Bradford on the Avon Poetry Prize, National Poetry Prize, and The Ledge Poetry Prize. Currently, he’s researching various genres of oral literature and teaches online for The Poetry School.