I don’t look like my mother or father,
but like a grandmother who died 50 years before I was
genes like dolphins surface unpredictably.
Her unschooled ballerina’s posture, her hair swept up
her forehead clear. She’s looking slightly
to one side of the lens, not breathing,
holding her eyelids and mouth still
without strain, as if this were an ability
she often used, but no one ever remarked upon.
Her cheek bones curve elegantly
toward her poised mouth.
At the neck of the laced, white,
high collared blouse, a single brooch.
Maybe she brought it from Ireland two years before
and is looking, without regret, in that direction,
remembering Donegal, or imagining her upcoming
her next emigration, from her own mother
and sisters, to join the man who wanted this picture.
Surely she is not looking ahead to me,
or to her two sons, or to the one who will survive
when she and the other son die of TB.
Her face, though tempered, is not expecting
trouble. She can settle
a colicky child, an uneasy horse,
but after this sitting she moved on,
soon to go under, curving toward me.