Mark Thalman: "Family Photos: Waitsburg, Washington, 1910"




In the photo, eight Belgians have harrowed the field

smooth as a calm lake.  Great-grandfather, still young,

guides the team, riding a gray behind them.


In the next one, Wilfred, my grandfather, age 12,

who died from a sad marriage,

long before the valve gave out on his heart,

stands on top of a mare’s back

like an acrobat in the circus.


The last picture has faded brown.

Near supper time, they are on the front porch

of a rundown homesteader’s shack,

while their two story farmhouse

is being built next door.

Clement and Sadie are both holding cats,

while Wilfred sits beside them

with his arms around a border collie

named Shortie.


Even though their faces are not clear,

it is easy to tell from their body language

that they are happy to be a family,

even though they don’t know

that two World Wars and The Great Depression

will occur, or at 91, Clement will be walking with me,

a great-grandson, and he will smile,

smelling the freshly plowed earth.



Mark Thalman is the author of Catching the Limit, Fairweather Books (2009). His poetry has been widely published for four decades.  His work has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, CutBank, Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily among others.