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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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Marietta McGregor

Candid Shot

Hobart, Tasmania, ca. 1950. Strollers, mainly families, crowd the footpath on their way to the Domain. I don’t know what the occasion is, maybe it’s a regatta or show and I’ll be given a lovely surprise. I walk between my mother and father, my hands tightly in theirs. A man I’ve never seen before, holding a black box on an oddly-shaped stick, steps out of the throng right in front of us. I’m told to smile. To please my parents I do my best, good child that I am, although the bright sun makes me squint. The strange man tinkers with the box, and there’s a bright flash which makes me blink. The man gives my parents a card. This tells them to come to his shop in town. After a couple of days, my mother shows me a photograph, nested between sheets of tissue in a cardboard folder. In the days before Kodachrome, its matt surface has been hand-tinted. I have two bright spots of colour high on my cheeks, and my yellow cardigan is a washed-out acid-lemon. My myopic eyes are squinched half-shut and I look as if I’m about to cry. Dad, who likes beautiful things, puts the photograph to one side, leaving it to Mum to select a frame. She buys a silver-plated one, the best she can afford.

long-lashed blue
of a kewpie doll’s eyes
her childhood wish
to be Ophelia, floating,
beautiful and mourned