The angle of her head is unnatural,
cocked like she was listening for a carriage
to round the corner on its way into town,
wheels and hooves kicking up dust
visible from the parlor room where children,
forever young and with small voices that echo
through empty corridors and past the unfaded rectangles
on walls where family portraits once hung, waiting patiently
to be replaced with examples of this fanciful technology
that forced perfect stillness of body and perfect posture
on perfectly cloudless days in a way a painter would never dream of asking for,
correcting changes in expression from memory as he went,
taking breaks to sip iced tea from tall, thick-sided glasses,
telling jokes and allowing for small increases of status -
linen cuffs shine like silk, chairs gain filigreed feet,
walls fade down from off-white to more expensive pigments, bright yellows
just five years ago in fashion, made from crushed flowers and sold to
brighten up dark rooms, glowing under never-ending sunlight.
But instead she cries in pain at her wrenched and corseted back,
taking no pleasure at the photographer's assurance that the brace,
footed like a walking stick and curved at the head like a crutch, would keep her
neck appropriately long and elegant and could be scratched out of the prints with a pin,
but that unfortunately there was nothing he could do about her dress.
Not in that light, no. Nothing to be done at all with her in that light.