Family Portrait

There is no getting close to them now
those figures in frock coats and bonnets
whose baptismal robes hang like their prayers
at the back of a mothballed closet.

They are forgotten as medieval fields
or the pathways we take for granted,
old drinkings, the origins of phrases.
But it is as they would have wanted

for they could not look to the future
to see their place in history
or share with us anything more
than the light of mutual sympathy -

but that breaks through the clouds
on seeing in the family bible
a boy's death recorded, his father's hand
clearly shaking on the 'S' of Samuel.


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