Family Trip

on Mar 24 in Poems by

I’m walking beside them in Pompeii.
We’re tourists of course.  I’m thirteen,
big lips, blue blazer, man’s trench coat,
pair of beginner balls dangling.
Every so often, kneeling to touch the ground,
I pick something up — keys, coins,
a ticket to the locker my mother keeps
her superstitions in.What’re these?
I say, stuffing things in my pockets.
Think of them as melodies
or instructions for later, my dad says.
I look up. Are you what I’m going to be
like in forty years? And why
did the children get covered in lava before
they had a chance to fully form?

I figure taking pictures is the best way
to play it, capturing without yielding.
Using bar mitzvah money, I buy
a camera duty-free at the airport,
an inspired act, my dad says, looking
at the price. My plan is to dismiss them
entirely, make fun of their stupid clothes,
their bickering and their loving glances
paying attention to what interests me.
The rest, saved to film, I’ll bring back
and study with my friends, stoned,
listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Surely we’ll know what’s important
to carry around the rest of our lives.

Now that they’re gone, I pull the pictures
and see something completely different.
Instead of my young mother posing in front
of the Eifel Tower, I see her crumbled face
when the pantomime was over, looking
straight into the camera.
The man with the tightest grip, the human
currency converter, the one who read
every guidebook at Brad Allen, dry heaving,
asking me what his best play is now.
The hardest thing to get my arms around
is the little boy behind the lens
and how (not so much in little ways)
he became them and they became me.

Comments are closed.