The Photograph

The Photograph

After my mother died
I found a photo of her
that caught my breath.
She was smiling
at someone, or something,
the answer to that question
glinting off her glasses.
I thought I knew her face
and all its guises,
but this was a smile
I had never seen.
There was her youth in it,
and a weary sort of contentment,
as if her battles were behind her,
or so she believed.
It was a smile that knew nothing
of the years to come,
and all the things she could have done,
would have done, differently.
She was her own woman,
not easy to know or love,
but each time I look at this picture
I want to warn her,
to show her a path more yielding,
and if that’s not love
what is?



Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Lillian, Alabama. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

10 thoughts on “The Photograph

  1. I can tell that picture brings mostly happy memories. That’s what a good photo can do. I have a cherished one above my writing desk of mother that I wouldn’t trade for a better posed one.

    1. Thank you, Lily. Whether it’s a poem, story or essay, I always write to get the answers I need. If I’m lucky, the answers are universal, and in this way relatable.

  2. The last 4 lines of that poem are haunting. Seriously, if that isn’t love, what is?! Beautiful and heartbreaking. I so admire the way you see the world and the way you negotiate it and make it available to all of us, your Readers. You rock, JR! Thank you!

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