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.
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
Yes, the image tells what is
Not that which is past
Now caught and fixed in time.
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: