Line the hallway wall
Through the long entrance
Into my bedroom chamber,
Where once you pass them all,
A cherry sleigh bed
Covered in ochre down,
Sits before a wall of windows
Looking out onto the Highland Forest,
Landscape paintings, oranges,
Golds, greens, blues, browns and grays
They stare back at me, always serious,
Garbed in clothing from 1904 to the 1940s,
Groups of them,
My grandparents and their sisters and brothers,
Young, lovely, women, handsome men,
Surrounding their parents and grandparents.
Then another photo,
Years later, faces beginning to wrinkle,
Dark man tailored suits
Even on the women.
I stuck a snapshot of us all
From ten years ago,
In the corner of one of the photographs,
The three famous children,
Not yet born,
The young ones from then
Long dead. And now, as I record this poem,
As I read this poem into my tape recorder,
Ten more years later, all dead.
As the years passed
Wire framed glasses,
Broaches, time pieces and flowers
Pinned to corseted lace dresses, on the women
Turn to pearls and dark rimmed glasses,
Turn to blue jeans, turtlenecks,
Eddie Bauer and LL Bean shirts,
Delicate silk scarves on the old women,
And back to wire rim glasses.
Babies in my brother and cousin’s arms
Now teenagers. Now in their twenties,
Time is collapsing against itself,
Past present and future all
My hair brown and thick and short,
Now gray and long,
Now brown and thick and short,
Now gray and long,
Now brown and long.
I wonder each night,
As I walk past my Ancestors, and I
Childless, who will look,
Who will look, one day, long from now,
Upon that once lovely women
In the purple silk shirt and gray wool vest,
As I do look upon, now look upon,
Katherine, Sarah, Lillian, Hannah, Rachael, and Rose.
As I do now look upon,
Rena, Ralph, Ruthie, Elaine, Bennett, and Stuart.
© Susan Lynn Gesmer, Shabbat Song. The Ancestors. Written in 2006. Edited in 2016.