The Photograph


Gertrude in her 20s.

When my grandmother Gertrude wrote her poems she did not think that they were anything special. She casually shoved the poems in the drawer, beneath her favorite bookshelf, and forgot about them. She had no idea that years later I would read those poems, and possibly find a measure of comfort in her words. “The Photograph” was written after a photo shoot that was conducted by one of my cousins.  Apparently, granny did not like the results, nothing to do with the quality of the photos because Nicola’s work was remarkable—it was something else that bothered Gertrude. I don’t know whether to call it vanity or not, but it was obvious that she was unhappy with the way that she had aged. Gertrude had always told me that in her mind she had a totally different image of herself, that she had only seen herself as that nineteen-year-old that she used to be. With her eyes closed she never imagined one wrinkle, or an age spot; in her mind she still had raven black hair, smooth skin, and a long narrow frame. When she looked in the mirror she could no longer recognize herself. Nevertheless,  one day she rediscovered those photos, and had a complete change of heart.

“The Photograph”

Is that me? It cannot be

Small eyes,thin lips,long nose

When I have only seen myself

As I was long ago

In the depths of dark I stand

Light focused where the need

Background translucent screen

With black design on white

In front of me the lens with her behind

She orders: Open your eyes wide

Look deep into the lens, what do you see?

An endless tunnel I am lost in space and time

And the core of my being is caught

In one single flash

In those few hours together

My granddaughter and I communed

To bring to light a truth

Which she learned but I had yet to find

Whilst the camera watched and waited

and sprang.

Yes, the image tells what is

Not that which is past

Now caught and fixed in time.

Five Shrager siblings

Gertrude (top center) together with her siblings at her 80th birthday party, London, England.

My novel East End Dreams describes Gertrude’s life in grater detail, beginning in the East End of London in 1910, and later on in South Africa. If interested in learning more about this book, please click on the following link:

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