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December 07, 2016
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Where the Dead Live

photo by Chip Forelli

By Howard J. Kogan

I have a black and white photograph taken in 1909 of my father Sol, who was four years old, his older sister Miriam, a younger brother Joe, his mother Leah, who looks pregnant and angry, his father Jonah, uncle Benny and his sister Rose.

The adults look solemn; the children frightened.

The men are in dark suits, the women in gowns, I wouldn’t be surprised if the clothes were supplied by the photographer. Only the children seem to be wearing their own clothes. It’s a formal, posed studio photograph taken to record a significant moment, perhaps their arrival in the United States.

My father looks like I did at that age, as my son did at four. I guess that means this is my family and I wasn’t kidnapped from the palace of Czar Nicholas II.

Everyone in the photo has been dead for decades. Yet, during the long moments I visit with them, they are not black and white images but people who are as alive as I am. People who, as I turn away, become like fireflies, dimly sparking in the long night at the end of our days.