Althea, Nina and Maude

May 29th, 2018

Three women sit on a bench.
The photographer says, Smile,
now hold it.  Right there.
Say, Cheese! Just a minute.
I need to focus again.
Their chins
tilt up expectantly, their half smiles
wait patiently for this moment
to be recorded. All dressed up

with somewhere to go. Their make-up
has been carefully applied,
their hats have turned up brims.
Wherever they are going,
they know they are ready.
Althea and Nina are cousins,
friends since childhood.
What explains the presence of Maude?
Only funerals or weddings bring
Althea and Maude together.

As for Nina and Maude, her sister-in-law,
there has always been rivalry
between them and some slight tension
when they are together. Flowers bloom
beside the door. Maude is wearing
white gloves. There are no wraps lying
on the bench. It must be late summer.
Perhaps they have met for lunch.

I think of their toughness, their instinct
for survival, for caring, for family.
The fireplace in the background, the wall
and the bench are all of well-worn brick.
Althea, Nina and Maude, gracious
with each other, they have learned
to weather the storms, to let go
of bitterness. They dress with care
when invited to lunch and smile
patiently for the photographer.