Snapshots

Spread them out on the desk
the snapshots
they have travelled a long way,
twelve thousand miles
and more than forty years.

Stare at them hungrily
greedily
what have they to tell
the tiny girl child
these pictures from another world?

Turn the pages – who is this?
No, it’s not, it’s not
your father,
that sinister dark stranger;
it’s your grandfather.

Here – what is this one?
(don’t draw back in fear
it is only a picture
of a loving father
reaching for his daughter

why should it hurt
you now?)
It was taken at sea as we passed
from the old world
to the new.

Now we are on firm ground;
a small girl smiles up
under a broad straw hat
pushing dolly in her pram
down the garden path.

It’s Christmas time
golden ringlets in tiny pigtails,
frame her chubby face
and dolly is new.
“We think Susan is growing quite beautiful.”

(She’s in front of the bushes –
hydrangeas growing tall and wide,
a cool safe shade these and the fuschias
a place to hide
to see and not be seen.)

Look at her trundling down the path
confidently pushing
the bright red barrow
full of empty tins.
“Susan on one of her mysterious busy errands.”</p

Standing on the gate
gazing at the world passing by.
“Is this your grand-daughter?”
His hot arm tight around my waist:
“This is my daughter!”

The album does not have
a picture
of the bee sting that day
nor does it record
all the other pain;

only those who have been there
can read the clues
in these tiny photographs
from our first year at home.

Snapshots first appeared in the Ampersand Collection. I rewrote it slightly when it became the seed for Journeys Round My Father.

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