I Have to Search for My Aunt's Face - Karen Mandell

in the photos bundled in the back of the drawer.

My mother's heart shaped face with wideset eyes

leaps out at me in her group of schoolgirls

though she stands at the back. Never one

to push herself forward. Lillian has a longer face,

higher forehead, grinning wildly, eyes ready

for a smart quip, a silly gag. Eyes meant to shine.

In neat enough script on the back of the pic,

Baby Doll Party. A date ninety years ago.

Teenage Lillian with white peonies pinned in her hair,

a belted romper, crouched down with a friend,

two others with upraised arms. London Bridge.

I don't pick her out right away.

I've never met her, my aunt dying in her twenties.

She looks like someone familiar--of course--

my Aunt Florence maybe or one of the cousins.

Not me though. I resemble the Polish relatives

on the other side. Thin nose like a modest cliff,

red hair, lanky limbed. Those too I've never seen

in real life, photos nonexistent.

Just a landsmen's word for it. Mordcha, she looks just like your mother,

they'd say, using his old name. I didn't have the right

to say it wasn't fair. Who am I, not a limb marred by war.

Shadow-scarred let's say. Nothing more.

 

Karen Mandell has taught writing at the high school and college levels and literature at community senior centers. She's written Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Rose Has a New Walker, a book of poetry. Her stories and poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines.

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