Say Her Name – by Rebecca Ellis

Late 1940s, snapshot in winter—
a woman dwarfed by banks of snow,
mugging at the camera. Shoulders back,
she sports her brother’s old wool jacket.

That brassy grin.
Between pages a loose photo slips—
her lover’s face—the brushed curls, the pearl earrings
leaning into the frame.

There was trouble over it,
side glances from her father, and not much talk.
One night at a table of half-emptied plates:
“What do you—do—when you get together?”

A long time ago.
I wasn’t there. I wasn’t born.
Now in the old photo album I see her, my aunt—
a stranger in faded Polaroids.

Bobbed hair, strong lipstick, tailored slacks—
frozen in her early 30s.
She’s here, in grainy resolution,
stiffly kicking at snowdrifts, getting ready to leave

the pinched gray house in Peoria. Snow collects
on her dark hair, a covering of cold fireflies or
powdered glass. I want to tell her it will be alright,
but she can’t hear me. I say her name

and she keeps walking into a Polaroid of snow.
I see the path she leaves, the playful tracks,
the bright cover a winter day has given her.
Someone clicks the shutter and she turns,

a big smile, then, for the camera
and whoever might be looking.

Rebecca Ellis lives in southern Illinois. Her poems can be found in Bellevue Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Sugar Mule, Sweet, Prairie Schooner, Natural Bridge, Adanna, RHINO, and Crab Creek Review. She is a Master Naturalist through the University of Illinois Extension Service.

Painting: “My Steps, Lost & Found”
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16×20 inches – mixed media on canvas