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American Life in Poetry: Snapshot

Ted Kooser

I'd guess that many of you have looked at old snapshots taken of you by doting relatives and tried to recall what it was like to be that person in the picture who seems to be you yet is such a stranger today. Here Linda Parsons Marion, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, touches upon the great distance between then and now.


My mother sends the baby pictures she promised--

egg hunting in Shelby Park, wooden blocks

and Thumbelina tossed on the rug, knotty pine

walls in a house lost to memory. I separate out

the early ones, studying my navel or crumbs

on the tray, taken before my awareness

of Sylvania Superflash. Here I am sitting

on the dinette table, the near birthday cake

striking me dumb. Two places of wedding china,

two glasses of milk, posed for the marvelous

moment: the child squishes the fluted rosettes,

mother claps her hands, father snaps the picture

in the face of time. When the sticky sweet

is washed off the page, we are pasted in an album

of blessed amnesia. The father leaves the pine house

and sees the child on weekends, the mother

stores the china on the top shelf until it's dull and crazed,

the saucer-eyed girl grips her curved spoon

like there's no tomorrow.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.Poem copyright ©2011 by Linda Parsons Marion, from her most recent book of poetry, Bound, Wind Publications, 2011. Reprinted by permission of Linda Parsons Marion and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.