Background effect

by D A Prince

Always there, unspoken, in the photograph’s
smudged greys, beyond smiling children caught
quiet for once, the dolls and tea-sets
and three-wheelers, and plastic beakers of squash,
remembered orange.

His Sunday work, following roast and gravy,
with the regular push and whirr rising
over garden fences, the roller squealing
for oily rest, old blades whistling
a popular ballad, the grass two-tone green.

It set everything off: the rolled-out stripes
in up-down order, straight as a ruler,
week in, week out, levelling
troubled patches, keeping the edges
sharp as a trouser crease.

You’d only notice if you looked, behind
the foreground of happy families,
into the back of the picture, the sun
slanting across and measuring seasons
against his unremarkable pattern.