Monday, April 13, 2009

Great-grandpa Lars

If I had a hat with a wide black brim, I’d remind myself of him.

(first publication)

Note: My father’s aunt on his mother’s side was the first to notice: many years ago, when examining the large oval portrait of my mother’s father’s family, she exclaimed, “It’s Bill.” And sure enough the resemblance was there, though none of us had noticed it before. The photograph was made about 1900, when my Swedish great-grandfather was in his early fifties. His hair is short, and he has a long goatee. The eyes and eyebrows are unmistakable. I was in my upper-twenties; my hair was also short. Now that I’m about the age he was in the portrait, I hardly look like him at all. We have other pictures of Lars, taken many years later on his little farm near Kingsburg, California. When he was older, he had a huge shaggy mustache. In one photograph he’s dressed in black and is wearing a large black hat with a wide brim. For years I’ve thought I wouldn’t mind looking like he did then if I live that long. Feature-wise, though, I don’t seem to be headed in that direction. I seem more on my way to becoming an Armenian-Swedish Walt Whitman. And the poetry is just as strange.

“Great-Grandpa Lars” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Kevin McCollister’s The Jimson Weed Gazette.

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