Carte de Visite, Leeds, 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.