I recall him early in the day, carving his field into brown-tipped waves, with his two sheep dogs running loose beside the enormous cart-horses that give him the horse-power, huge, born to labor and the plough, as they create their own steam in the morning mist, so cool, but stay clear of their hooves, huge hooves, iron shod hooves, hooves that will break a leg or stove in the dog’s ribs as if he were a rowing boat crushed against an Atlantic rock in the fast ebb-tide of the local bay, and watch out for them in the stable where they lean together, side by side, like the oxen twins, Bright and Lion, out at King’s Landing, and like the oxen they munch their hay and stomp their feet and blow hot air out through their nostrils, almost in unison, their sweet-smelling breath sugaring the air, and the bright hay surrounding them, prickly and tickly, and leaving its speckled rash on arms and legs and necks … and I thresh in dream-memories, flailing from harvesting remembered brightness beneath a star-filled sky, gathering memories, ordering them into vital bundles, and every package a re-creation of everything that I was, and am, and ever will be, and those who come after will find less of myself, yet more, much more, than this empty snowball of flesh, which sits here at the table, pen in hand, scribbling the words that begin and end it all, the tell-tale words that blindly bind and knot the ties that tie me in place, forever, between these lines, between these covers, and I jot down supplements that will supply fresh blood to the memories of my rapidly fading life … how long will I hold on to them, those memories, those moments of glory, those seconds that turn into minutes, then hours, and the hours stringing themselves together to form days and weeks as memories gnaw away the years, as a mouse gnaws away at a cheese, with jagged teeth until all that is left are sad photos of unnamed, unremembered people floating in the family photograph album like the one that my grandfather once gathered, and glancing from page to page I know no one even if the name is written there, his wonderful copperplate standing out beneath the photograph, ‘my sister Betty, aged two’, ‘my cousin David, aged ten months’, ‘my grandmother’s father’s sister’s cousin by marriage’, and there she is, this anonymous being, riding in the sidecar of a motorbike, and the photo all speckled and brown, like a hen’s egg, waiting in its egg-cup for the silver spoon that will bring it magically to life, a real life, not the false life of a forged memory that floods through my mind, so young, they are, so small, so pretty, all of them, so dashing, so handsome, even in their old-fashioned clothes, and now they are here, their spirits trapped in this photograph, floating ghosts in the half-life of a sepia snap, and will this be the afterlife for all of us, these snaps, taken in an instant, and then lasting, at first for hours, and then, forgotten and laid aside, then surfacing in another country, held by another hand and viewed by foreign eyes that do not know and will never understand … how can they ever understand?
2 thoughts on “Family Album”
Brilliant writing! I love a stream of consciousness (when done well). Might this be added to your Welsh stories? I think it would find a home there. Good stuff. Chuck
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I think that it is the beginning of a longer piece, Chuck. I would like to examine more of the photos in the album and tack them on to his one. I am glad you like i and I think it has a lot of potential. It will grow, I believe. Thanks for your comments.