The Lost Photograph

For Sepia Saturday #201, a collection of photos of my father's house in Elm, Michigan, and a poem of his that evokes at least the interior very well.

Lost for twenty years now that large photograph

Of my father in his long room at Golden,

Colorado, in 1901, surrounded

By books and sunlight.

The young teacher from Michigan, his forehead

High and broad, his fine black hair center-parted,

Rugged and hopeful as Lincoln, at his desk,

Shakespeare beside him.

Before he taught at Victor or Cripple Creek

Or had Lowell Thomas as a start student,

Or won my mother’s hand away from Ralph Carr

And the music store.

In one corner of the room, piled high with books,

Was the slatted wood, metal and leather trunk

Brought to take all his books and clothes from Detroit

Clear to the Rockies.

On my last night in Michigan, he and I

Climbed to the spare bedroom long used for storage,

Where my mother’s dress dummy stood among toys,

Found the old trunk there,

Unmoved since I was born, carefully removed

Teddy bears, dolls, games, and three children’s clothing,

And carried it with ceremonial joking

Down the long staircase,

Past the ceiling-high cases of well-read books,

Past faded paintings of six great composers,

Past the two old stoves and the battered table,

Out through the kitchen,

Down the back porch where all of our dogs had slept,

Across the yard full of oaks, maples, and pine

Where we live in photographs of forty years,

Past the old red barns,

And loaded it into Ramsbottom, the Dodge.

My train was to leave at dawn for Seattle

From the ornate red brick depot in Ann Arbor

Where he had arrived

In 1896. Across Middlebelt,

Beyond the fragrant pastures of horses and Holsteins,

Half a mile away stood Elm Woods, flower-filled,

Venus above them.

I could hear far off, down at the Beech crossing,

A Diesel, not an old steam locomotive,

Coming on the Pere Marquette. Then my father,


Standing in the back door in Indian summer

Twilight, his children gone, my mother long dead,

But in his old aura of steadfast love, gave one

Understated wave

As Beth and I drove off into the future.

On the way to Seattle, on the Great Northern,

On the far side of the Rockies, I remembered

The lost photograph.
Nelson at bat in the front yard

The Bentleys at Elm

The red barns

Middlebelt Road, Elm Woods

Dapper in the side yard

The house coat and the house

Mike, the house dog


  1. What a lovely collection of pictures, liked the poem too! Great post!

  2. Love your dad's poem -- pretty darn cool way to present a bit of family history.

  3. A beautiful presentation of "home." The poetry reminds me of James Agee's evocative short story set to music by Samuel Barber - "Knoxville: Summer of 1915."

  4. Super post with a fine collection of photos. Your dad's poem says it all so well.

  5. So beautiful --- I am just speechless and enjoying the beauty of your words and pictures.

  6. So many poignant details captured so expertly in this piece. I feel momentarily invited into the privacy of your home, and your life.
    Both the photographs and the words are memorable. Thank you.