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The McConomy Family
Starkly the house tunnels away
behind the family group, archways
leading off to shadowy rooms,
a house as cavernous as the future.
Two sons, their dog and his rubber toy
are drawn to the hearth-red center
as if their mother's smile
(at the painting's focal point)
were a campfire, wavery reflections
of flame tinging the wall just beyond.
Father reaches from afar (across space?
time? newspaper headlines?), his face
catching a glow from the flame.
Mother directs all eyes (including ours)
toward the family album, like the house
called home, a mirror of her flame:
You can see her breathing life into it,
the warmth of her presence kindling
for her sons a past. But really
this painting is the past she gives them.
Now they live in her light, see
not her, but whatever her light touches.
Someday, looking at this painting
from a future beyond foreseeable headlines,
thousands of half-lit rooms from here,
seeing what now they look away from
(mistaking a collection of pictures
for a presence) they'll wonder
if what they've called their lives
is not a hall of mirrors, each spoon,
each face, each familiar carpet pattern
reflecting a spark or ember of that smile.
Life is not lived, but created.
Now, they receive warmth and light.
Then, seeing this, they will know
if, moving off into darkness,
they have become part of it
(living off remnants of old grey light)
or learned to bear the gift of fire.
October 6, 2002