Bob Ward
Carte de Visite, Leeds, 1884

Young Jeremiah Gains, Carte de visite, Leeds, UK, photographer unknown, 1884

                           Great Uncle Jerry:
                              twelve years old in sepia,
                              bowler-hatted, smartly buttoned up,
                              with an elegant walking-stick,
                              left hand holding a floral spray
                              as if it had been thrust upon you.

                           Put in your place for this photograph,
                              you don’t convince me you’re at ease;
                              perhaps the required rigid pose
                              for a long exposure suppresses
                              the merest chance of a smile;
                              you’re incubated in an oval mount.

                           I guess that you’ve been marshalled
                              through the studio door by relatives
                              as a Victorian rite of passage,
                              post-school, into a quasi-adult life
                              shut up in an album by your family.

                           Now I revive you with my attention,
                              bring you a childhood memory,
                              just one, of you as an elderly bachelor
                              who baffled me with a conjuring trick –
                              items disappearing under cups . . .

                           These days I conserve your photograph:
                              flowers droop but what became,
                              I wonder, of that walking stick?
                           Don’t forget to carry it
                              next time you come visiting.