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April 16 PAD

April 16, 2011

This month, I’m participating again in Poetic Asides’ Poem a Day Challenge. Today’s challenge was to use a photograph as a starting point.  After I posted the poem below, I wanted to share the photograph too of my great grandmother Vernice Yancey and her fiance James Hamilton (who became my great grandfather, although he died while his wife was pregnant with my grandmother).  That’s the short version.  Here’s the poem and the picture:

Paper Moon

Boxed up for decades now, the picture lay
beneath dozens more, along with clippings,
postcards, tattered treasure-filled envelopes—
wedding invitations, old report cards,
teaching certificate, tracing my people,
our people, all the way back before the last
turn of the century.  The note on the back
confirmed my guess—my mother’s mother’s
parents—engaged, not married yet, perched
side by side on the lip of the crescent moon,
its face painted with a knowing smirk, against
a starry handmade backdrop.  How odd,
her sad expression, not even a trace of a smile,
as she sat beside her handsome beau, dapper
in his hat, boutonniere pinned on his suit lapel.
Could she have felt the premonition of loss,
her young husband who’d not live to love
the child he fathered before his death?
I see for the first time in her face the look
identical to the one her daughter wore,
my grandmother, the burden maybe never
voiced, but haunting nonetheless: her birth
at such an inconvenient time, following
as scandalously close upon her father’s wake
as Hamlet’s frail mother’s wedding vows.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2011 9:09 pm

    Beautiful poem. I can’t beleive I’m just getting around to your blog. I don’t live too far from you.

    • April 16, 2011 9:56 pm

      Debra, I usually blog at, but I use this one for poems and miscellaneous. I’m originally from Florence but now living in Hickory, NC. Where are you? I noticed your mention of the bad storms. Most of my family is still in the Shoals, so I’ve heard reports!

  2. April 16, 2011 10:14 pm

    Never mind the question, which now seems so daft, about where you live! LOL! I just read your comments below, and it answered my question. Your poem is very touching. Those old photos, eh?

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