Untouched Photograph of Passenger

  • onOctober 30, 2014
  • Vol.25 Autumn 2014
  • byCathy Song
Picture Bride


His hair is brilliantined.
It is black and shiny
like patent leather.

He cannot be more than twenty:
his cheeks are full,
his face is smooth as a baby’s,
though one pockmark
above his right temple
about the size of a rice kernel
is detectable.
His mouth appears to be
curved over something almond shaped.
Perhaps, he is sucking on a sweet plum.

His suit is puckered
at the seams.
The shoulders are too narrow,
fitting badly;
probably stitched
in a lamplit tailor shop
hovering in a back alley.
But the necktie adds
the texture of rawsilk;
the added touch signifying

that this is meant to be
a serious picture;
the first important photograph
he has ever had taken.
This will document
his passage out
of the deteriorating village.
He will save it
to show his grand children.
As if already imagining them,

his eyes are luminous.
He is looking ahead,
beyond the photographer
in the dark room
crouched under the black velvet cloth,
beyond the noisy cluttered streets
pungent with garlic and smoke chestnuts.

Rinsing through his eyes
and dissolving all around him
is sunlight on water.

copyright ⓒ Yale University Press

Author's Profile

Cathy Song is an Asian-American poet. She was born and raised in Hawaii and is of Korean and Chinese descent. She has long been considered as a poet who represents the passive beauty of East Asian culture and recalls tribal memory. Her first poetry collection, Picture Bride, is frequently regarded as the work of personalizing the process of female assimilation into American society.