My Father as an Artist

by Jennifer Judge

It’s not just that the picture is particularly flattering—
it’s the way the light glows golden in the room,
the surprise that it was taken at all, hidden
away on a roll of our 35 mm, developed years after it was snapped.

My husband, much younger then, sits in a chair, one hand on an armrest,
the other snaking through the curve of crossed legs to rest on a knee.
He looks ahead, out of the shot.  I am posed in the foreground,
face bent low to tell a long dead dog something.

It shouldn’t surprise me that my father took this picture.
There are, of course, the North Carolina photos, my family’s mid-’60s Camelot:
newly married, new parents, my dad took black and whites,
magazine studies of that time crystallized.

My sister, just a toddler then, examines the cuff of my father’s army uniform—
she has put it on herself, precocious baby sneaking off unnoticed.
In another, she beams unabashedly at the lens in a new dress.
He waited for those shots, chose the composition.  They are beautiful.

And so it shouldn’t surprise me, yet still it does, so much passing
between now and then, years, time worn and exposed, promises not kept.
But now there is this: a picture, his poem, snapped in secret,
given as a silent gift so that I will always know my father saw me.

— from Juniper Volume 1, Issue 3