The Family Portrait
Rising from the bottom bureau drawer
inside a gilt frame chipped and worn,
their hands and faces white as bone,
a husband, a wife, and four daughters,
each daughter with a ribbon in her hair.
Wide-eyed and tight lipped, as if haunted
by perfection, they have no blemishes
or birthmarks; not one has dared to smile.
Admitting no distractions, the one in shirt
and tie, the five in high-necked dresses
are standing, bound in wool and cotton,
frozen at attention, waiting for the light,
the flash that fixes them forever, colorless
and wide-eyed, dressed in black and white.
After the Tornado
(Sleeping Giant State Park)
After limb snap and tree crash, months
of air filled with sawdust and the sounds
of wood chippers and log loaders: a mountain
shorn, its uprooted hardwood and pine trimmed
and cut to length by chain saws and axes.
Like little boys, day after day, through
temporary chain link fencing, we watch
the thick trunks stacked, one after another,
like Lincoln Logs on flatbed tractor trailers,
by log loaders and cranes, their articulated
steel claws gripping and lifting, gripping
and lifting, harvesting, once and for all,
the names and initials of hikers and lovers,
who just wanted to leave something behind.
Inside the high school foyer, a photograph
of newly planted trees and engraved fieldstones
honoring Hamden’s sixteen first selectmen.
Outside, those trees are gone. Eight stones
are missing—their selectman’s names and dates
of service rolled away or buried under asphalt
parking lots and chain-link fencing.
No longer boundary or markers, their edges
chipped, their inscriptions faded, eight stones
remain, in a tiny circle, now, behind a bronze
plaque bolted to a concrete block.