Father's Side

I. MARIA, 1916

In the creased
postcard she
is pregnant with
my grandmother. She
wears an oil black
pleated dress in early

spring. A little girl
with pale blue
eyes poses beside
her on a marble

bench in a
borrowed twin-
ruffled frock, a ribbon
in her hair badly
tied and knocked

askew. Her
husband sits in his only
suit, stiffly
proud, meeting the glare
of the world, his

mustache curled. Has
Maria told her daughter
in Italian to stand
still? A few years before she

came to this country and
married a man she'd
never seen.

From under her
extravagant hat I see
a few soft dark
curls rioting free.

Are all these
old pictures just
the same - people

whose blood you
carry in your veins
as tenuously bound
to you as Adam
and Eve?

Mother's Side

II. THOMAS, 1911

This one from memory.

stands at a pigeon-
coop, back to
the wire

his hand
fists cocky
stance on the top

edge of the
cage, late
summer edged

sun, bicep flexed
beneath a worn white
shirt, collar open.

In summer
moment sepia
the story

surrounding: he
marries the girl
of his brother
who has died

come from
eyes like his

they come from
stories like this


There was a time
she said, where
the place you pass
gas stations now

and people begging
with frayed brown
signs used to be a park and in
the creek were frogs and

turtles and we would watch a plane
land in a field and
we were the only
ones who had a car

Mother made chicken
and she made me
dress as if for a
party and I met

my cousins for
the first time

someone had a camera
and there the women
are with their hair down
it is summer you can see
their knees

That is my father, Thomas.
He is standing beside
our car with his
arms apart,
mouth open

demonstrating how
Mother would
catch a ball


Blind Granny was
Sioux, she said

her name was
Georgeann and I would
brush her long hair every day

she used a whalebone comb
I have it here

Look at that hair
it was black until
the day she died

What else do you know
about her


Children should be
seen and not heard

V. NAN, 1936

She stands
in the yard in her
dress before

graduation: the
biggest corsage
you ever saw, a
mum of all things

The dress
is lace in those
days stockings
mattered handbags
mattered she'd talk

for half a day
about crocheted
sweaters a hat
shopping trip fifty
years before

some others the
exposure is
brief enough to catch
her smile

Rosemarie Koch

If you've any comments on this poem, Rosemarie Koch would be pleased to hear from you.

The Koch family - past and present