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Something Timeless About a Death

"We might even have loved each other"

Published onJul 23, 2023
Something Timeless About a Death

Photo by Miray Bostanci:

My father died on February 8.
Two months later to the day, I receive a package
from my aunt—Dad’s big sis and 95 years old.
It contains mementos of his:
merit-badge certificates from the Boy Scouts dated 1943,
a two-act comedy called The Umbrella composed in longhand,
a shot of him—aged 87—loading a rear-tine tiller onto a pickup.

Among other artifacts, I unearth a pin,
a black-and-white photograph of my sister and me
on the front, circa 1973.

In it, I’m wearing a white T-shirt, a brown, perhaps olive green,
stripe around the neckline
and at the top of the pocket and the bottom of the sleeve.

Beth’s wearing a black, maybe navy blue,
sleeveless dress, buttons on the high collar. Fence post behind us,
the buttons gleam in the light, and so does her hair,
hanging down to her chin, framing her face perfectly.
Eyes spaced wide, she smiles naturally, dimple
in both cheeks. She must be eleven, and
I’d forgotten how beautiful she was.

As for me, I’m at that awkward stage
in the portrait, seven, I guess. My head,
especially the top half, is too big for my body, and the crew cut
Dad insisted on exaggerates the effect.
In spite of it, I’m smiling, a lifelong challenge,
lopsided as a tacking sloop. Still, a solid effort.
I’m leaning back into her, taller than me by four years.

We look happy together—friends. We might even have loved each other,
but it’s impossible to tell. That’s the thing about an old button:
It doesn’t care about the big picture.

So I inspect, again and again, the two of us, preserved half a century
on the surface of a pin, unable to detect even a trace
of the strangers we’d become.

Bob Kirkley received an MA in creative writing from Florida State University and serves as a high school English teacher in the Florida Keys. His poetry has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Better Than Starbucks. He can be reached at

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