Side by side

the three photos

form a triptych that belongs

to a past I can relate to—

father, mother, son,

immigrants from Europe

coming to a future in Australia

after World War II.

The father’s dressed

meticulously, clean-shaven,

wearing best shirt and tie—

staring straight ahead,

like he has a burden

on his shoulders.

He is serious, tight-lipped.

The mother, also, stares ahead.

She is wearing earrings,

a sleeveless pullover

that maybe she knitted herself.

There’s a quiet nobility about her—

yet she looks sorrowful, is dark-eyed.

Her face looks tragic—

the kind of face you associate with opera.

The little boy’s eyes are liquid,

have a light in them

that his parents’ eyes don’t have.

His head’s turned

to the left—as if something’s

caught his attention.

Maybe he’s timid or being defensive.

A Medical Officer

from the International Refugee Organization

has stamped the collar of his shirt.

Their Migrant Selection documents

are much like my own family’s—

succinct, bureaucratic,

written in an Old World script—

full of personal details.

(Both families arrived in Australia

in 1949—lived

in the same migrant camp.

Both of us, the boy and I, an only child …)

No matter what order

my mind arranges the three photos

the triptych ends up meaning the same:

three faces setting out

for a new life—into a future

that promises everything

but reveals nothing of itself along the way.

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