They stare at the birdie with haunted posture,
Starched men holding their collective breaths
Beneath waistcoat and cumberbund,
Willing themselves out of a fidget,
And praying the moustache wax won't melt
In this relentless noon sun.
The wives and daughters, cinched grim
In petticoat and cruel wire,
Dab at moisture clinging to lips
Like the steam of the china teacup.
Their mouths, strained at the corners,
Poised terse and ready for posterity.
In hushed sepia tones they record the moment,
In tintype later mouthed by the teething babe,
Generations of classical noses and chiseled jaws,
Of wearing someone else's eyes
Along with the hand-me-down lace.
It seems the all of history
Was awash in brown brick,
And wan desolate composures;
The family pearls strung like a noose,
The watch fob dangling like a hellish chain.