Deep Nostalgia

By Peter O’Donovan

“Deep Nostalgia™ is the magical MyHeritage feature
that allows you to see the people in old family photos
blink, move their heads, and smile . . . The 10 additional
drivers released today allow you to see your ancestors
express a wider spectrum of gestures and motions,
for example, smile wholeheartedly, blow a kiss,
nod approval, and more.”
—MyHeritage.com

Hard not to fall deep into the fancy,
drawn into the scene as the face unstills,
blinks a bit, looks around at its surroundings,
then smiles vaguely as though just awakened
while decades melt away by our devotion
to those sacred photos, those icons of Them
revived to succor, to help us through.

But then, the illusion slips for a second:
lips open slightly too wide, reveal
dark & indiscreet blight underneath
with the miracle’s seams now visible,
skin jittering under electric current,
dead pixels stitched on an actor’s grin, a
magician’s trick, a carcass shuddering.

Perhaps They wonder where they are now,
trapped in this mannequin afterlife,
looping continually, dimly confused
at these orders received, contorted
to kiss and wink at our demand, to dance
for our nostalgia, to nod with praise never
offered, held greedily in the grave.

And so, They shall be remade to our need,
artifacts of longing shaped to be shared,
for remorse performed by social media,
by tweets and with tears for all of our followers,
as we watch their faces, again and again,
their characters molded as we reclaim
our heritage of old, our cold construction.


Peter O’Donovan is a scientist and writer living in Seattle. Originally from the Canadian prairies, O’Donovan received his doctorate from the University of Toronto, studying design aesthetics. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Atlanta Review, Orange Blossom Review, River Heron Review, Qwerty, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

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