A Charm Of Hands
Any lockdown or confinement is likely to turn one into oneself, though rummaging in old photos is not an unusual activity for me. Nor the way time can go out the window as one gets drawn in, gazing at these fogged little panes like a child at a sweetshop (now more likely a supermarket checkout or mall window).
Anyway this is from a photo of my mother with soldier friends, 1956. Strange that I noticed the detail of the hands while only partly registering the oddness of the actual setting. Sam called my attention to this, wondering if it might be a train (there's at least one other passenger behind them). Looking again, I think it must be a kind of bus (or possibly large jeep-like vehicle), with its door open, parked next to a field or meadow or possibly an orchard, part of an apple tree perhaps, the edge of a landscape (more trees?) flaring into light's blown-out intimate horizon.
I had glanced at it many times, but this was the first time I had thought to photograph it with my phone, then zoom into the detail of the hands.
I wrote a poem about it, which I am still not sure about. Here it is:
A SMALL PHOTO OF MY MOTHER WITH SOLDIERS
Rummaging for something else, I find it again
in a bunch of unsorted old snaps
(and their separated souls, those big slippery negatives).
A laughing, dark-haired woman wedged between two
grinning men, out of uniform; all
arms, hands and cigarettes, sunlight and shadow.
‘56, this was, when she worked for the WVS
at Canadian bases in Germany, where she met
my father (not one of these men).
On the brink of 40, from a family of ‘excellent Catholics’,
she’d already had one child ‘out of wedlock’
four years earlier, and given him up for adoption.
Her second one (me), she’d keep. Was she taking a break,
a little R&R from the lifelong guilt
like a cloud she had to shine through?
They look flushed, merry, locked in their innocent Eden.
A kind of antidote, if you need one,
to this time of cautious, peripheral dance steps.
I’d assumed it was outdoors, some dappled arbour or glade,
but they’re sitting in a bus, I think,
its door wide open on what looks like a garden
(blown-out, hard to tell if those are thin trees
or gaps between sheets on a line).
Her two companions, I see now, have bad teeth.
The one on the right, in a tee-shirt, has hooked his arm
around her neck, his big, dangling hand
lit by two bars of bright sun.
Under that hand is another, darker hand ––
fingers spotlit by the glint
of a large ring –– grazing what might be her breast.
Is it her own, protective hand? I think so, but
the shadow-pool is deep so here…
Better to take the phone, zoom in, reframe
as an abstract ring-a-rosy of resting hands,
with no need to try to unlock and uncover more
than my mother’s beautiful laughter.