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
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—
written in an Old World script—
full of personal details.
(Both families arrived in Australia
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.