Even from afar came shouts of recognition
Joyful voices rang across the years disdained and
Faces of our childhood unforgot fit instantly familiar names;
Voices still the same despite the extra grey, the extra lines,
Like sacred family metaphors not blurred with passing time.
Uncles greeted cousins, nieces hailed their aunts in private spaces
Kept for kith and kin, as if by chance this place, and the children’s
Children ran and played while old familiars sought out old familiars
And said gooday. Some, lost in paternity-unexplained reserve
Feigned acquaintance, made clamorous greetings
Never really meeting friendly eyes; we observed
No contradiction, in the art of being Gillgren
Ambiguity is a smile disguised. And as more arrived
To swell the throng shyness shifted and was crushed
In the overwhelming warmth of welcome.
That was handshakes day,
A day of greetings, of hugs and patent kisses,
Of faded family jokes and famous legends, a day
We traded lissom lies and downright deconstructions,
Disavowals and denials, embellishments and exhortations,
Trials and travails, and everywhere without exception,
Vibrant, friendly laughter filled the air. We packed the missing years,
Relentlessly connecting memories, seeking explanations,
Listening with desirous passion. We met again,
To celebrate our names, to celebrate our Patriarch,
Johannes Efraim Gillgren.
The moment which defined it came belatedly
Amid a blush of hereditary patience (infused, no doubt,
By alcohol and calmed by pious charity).
We sat together, splendidly naïve on the threshold of our similitude,
Watching images of Johannes and forebears on the screen.
The images didn’t cause abjuring sentiment
(we have the pictures in our albums – treasure every one),
But it was no less a shock to find our hows and whys, where
With delinquent validation laid bare, we’d all endured yet come
By signal cause – and now we knew who needed who.
Mine weren’t the only tear-filled eyes, I cried
For Harriet and Johannes, and my parents who had died,
I cried without shame for I love them dear,
And I loved them in secret for fear of discovery; yes, I tell you this,
For how wrong can you be? And in the closeness of that room
I reached out and touched my family.
Peachester, April 2005