April 28, 2017

Family Photo, 1899 by Joan Colby

Five daughters, every one with hair
To her hips. Cumbersome dresses
Meant for Sundays. No one is smiling.
The mother’s hair skinned into a thick bun.
The smallest child on her lap. The father
Gallant with sideburns, chin whiskers,
A wave over one eye. Cravat and
Polished boots.That they lived, all of them,
In a one-room log cabin in the Uinta Mountains
Is not apparent, dressed in their finest, hair
Freshly washed and brushed so that
Every girl could be Rapunzel.
Two infant sons already buried.
The father will die by gunfire
At the age of 40. The mother will be nursing
Her last child: my father
Who will be photographed later
In a white lace baptismal gown.

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature.  Her newest books are “Carnival” which was published by FutureCycle Press in 2016 and “The Seven Heavenly Virtues” just out from Kelsay Books. Her next book “Her Heartsongs’ will be published by Presa Press in 2018.  Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press. Website: www.joancolby.com.  Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: poetjm.


  1. What a wonderful picture you paint with words - I can see it. AND family history. Great stuff. Rose

  2. As if I'm viewing the photograph...

    Wonderful read.

  3. Such an evocative and visual poem!


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