This was the practice where the Victorian mother, often disguised or hiding, often under a spread, held her baby tightly for the photographer, to ensure a sharply focussed image…

You bright thing, suspended between that man in his dark cape and me in mine.
                                   You think we are playing peek-a-boo
                                   and wait for the punch-line of my face –
the delightful fright of the familiar.

I have swaddled you safe till now      corner to
(this dusking exposure)             corner to
                                             corner to
                                         crossing your heart with mine.


I worry at your lunch while you’re still eating breakfast.
The state of your teeth. The shelf-life of your dreams.

Your old clothes are unbearable.
Your father sees things in you that I never see.

School is where you take your talk.
I bracket your day (dropping and picking up)
                           two empty arms.

This photo is the way I catch hold of you –
keep holding you
as you swoop into tomorrow –
                                           next year –
on your brightly coloured wheels –
your endangered knees.


And here you are, caught, like a moth in a flame, in this
The insistence of my hug cut away.

The velvet of your eyes, rubbed dull as the nail on my
right thumb.
The convention of health on your cheeks.

Growing so quickly
you almost blur with speed.

View this poem on The Disappearing »

The Invisible Mother - Hannah Mettner