I sit at the foot of mother’s bed
on an institutional bedspread of blue chenille.
Between us is a box without a lid from which
She pulls out a black and white photograph.
"Aunt Ivy," she says of the woman in the print dress
and straw hat, which she wears on the back of her head
in a way that makes it seem as if she is wearing a halo.
"She was married four times, you know."
"Cousin Luke," mother says of the next photo.
A man in a white shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows
stands smilling next to a dark DeSoto.
I learn as we go through the box that Cousin Luke
was always photographed standing next to a new car
and that he was a shirt-tail cousin, whatever that means.
Mother isn’t sure. It’s just what she was told.
"My brother, Dan," mother says.
He’s in a sailor’s dress uniform.
I remember him married to his second wife,
and that he had gotten two women pregnant,
I think at the same time,
when he came home from the war.
He somehow married them both.
I never asked how he managed that.
It’s not something the family talked about.
We go through the rest of the box
of cousins, cousins of cousins, aunts, uncles,
people we may or may not be related to,
me writing the names on the back of each photo,
The names are old ones, fallen from favor.
Many seem to have died with their owners;
Elmer, Alva, Ida, Ethyl, Nellie, Bessie.