Welcome to the Family

Mike Landsdown

A distant cave
Support the roof.
Language before words
‘I was here’.

Black and ochre
Essence of the earth
From which we grow
And to which we will return.
Figures stalk the walls
Antecedent and ancestral
My tribe
My family.

Oil upon canvas
Layer upon layer
Generations thick.
Collars and countenances starched
Eyes set, fixed upon the distant days to come.
They stand sentinel and silent
Have oversight
Upon a spiral staircase
Leading to the stars.

Now, in sepia and white
They rise unsmiling
To float into our consciousness.
Nameless, ageless, long-gone
Details lost to a history
Unwritten and forgotten.
But they share my name
And I their genes.
Look carefully and you will see
A hint, or two:
The tilt of a chin, the shape of an ear, a nose that nobody would choose.
They stare across the years
Communicate their hopes, their dreams, their fears,
In words unspoken.
A silent echo.

Dog-eared and bent
The whole no bigger than your old pound note
The family presses
Crowds to stay within the frame.
And on the back:
A date – pencilled, smudged, incomplete
Location scribbled in a hurried hand
A name, or two, perhaps.
Clues that call or wave, tantalise and tease
A signpost toppled by the winds of time.
‘Old uncle Albert? Granny Jean?
It can’t be her, she’s far too lean.’

Colours bleeding at their edges.
‘Were skies ever green or lawns and hedges pink?’
Kodachrome and Polaroid made for brighter times.
Now, crank into motion…
That party,
That game of cricket on the beach,
That raising of a glass,
That determination to have some fun.
That probing lens
Flooded in the glare of a rare British sun.

One small step
A short walk
A world united
Hand in hand.
Lonely footprints in the sand
Silently proclaiming
‘We are here.’
A tank
A man
Who shows no fear.
We hold our breath
Our arms around his shoulders.
When two towers become none
Shockwaves pulse across the globe
And hope seems gone
We almost shut the family album.

And now
Sharp and true
The reddest red, the bluest blue.
We pose and pout
For friends we greet
And trust we’ll never meet.
Might not even like.
A dozen, a score, half a million
Maybe more.
A virtual worldwide family
Hyperspacial neighbours
Who live, freeze, die
And can enter your house
At the flick of a finger
At the click of a mouse.

More numerous than the stars
Or droplets in the oceans
A storm-surge of selfies
Of family, friends, strangers
Dead, alive
And yet to come
A tsunami, a mushroom cloud
Threatening to block the sun.

A distant cave
Handprints on the roof.
A virtual handshake – suitably distanced
Invites you in.
‘We are still here.’
Welcome to the family.

This page was added on 03/12/2020.

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