A photo of myself at four or five
smiles at me while I work,
the tentative grin of a shy child,
having her photo taken in public,
probably for the first time.
A back drop mural with flowers,
curtains draped at the sides.
Daisies, and maybe peonies –
it’s black and white, I can’t be sure.
I’d like to think it’s peonies,
which my mother loved.
She may have loved me a little less.
It was my cousin who took me to town
to have the picture taken.
The one who made me feel okay
that I bit the pencil erasers off,
assuring me that I would not
suffer eternal damnation,
which is what I feared I think,
though I didn’t have the words for it.
She was my favorite cousin,
and only one by marriage.
Decades later I watched her
play with my daughter
as she had with me,
and knew I had not been mistaken.
It’s no coincidence this little
girl watches me as I work
whose early toy was pencils,
before she could write.


(other notes in journal with this poem)