By Diane Thiel
I like old photographs of relatives
in black and white, their faces set like stone.
They knew this was serious business.
My favorite album is the one that’s filled
with people none of us can even name.
I find the recent ones more difficult.
I wonder, now, if anyone remembers
how fiercely I refused even to stand
beside him for this picture — how I shrank
back from his hand and found the other side.
Forever now, for future family,
we will be framed like this, although no one
will wonder at the way we are arranged.
No one will ever wonder, since we’ll be
forever smiling there — our mouths all teeth.
About the author
Diane Thiel (b. 1967) published this poem in her first collection, Echolocations, which won the 2000 Nicholas Roerich Prize. Echolocations also won second place in ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year competition.
Many poems in Echolocations deal with Thiel’s German heritage, and the traumatic effect war and violence had upon her family lineate. Christine Stewart-Nuñez observed in Prairie Schooner that Thiel’s later collection, Resistance Fantasies, a 2004 National Book Award nominee, “explore[s] myth and personal story, legends and contemporary public issues.… Thiel portrays women who resist appearances or conventions, especially the ways myths typically construct them.”
Thiel has lived in Europe and South America. She is fluent in several languages, and was a 2001 Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the Robert Frost and Robinson Jeffers awards. Thiel also holds BA and MFA degrees from Brown University. She has taught creative writing, literature, and other subjects at the University of Miami, Florida International University, the University of New Mexico, and elsewhere.