By Cathy Song b. 1955 Cathy Song
Wahiawa is still
a red dirt town
where the sticky smell   
of pineapples
being lopped off
in the low-lying fields   
rises to mix
with the minty leaves   
of eucalyptus
in the bordering gulch.

We lived there
near the edge
where the orchids grew huge   
as lanterns overnight
and the passion fruits rotted   
on the vines
before they could be picked.

We grew there
in the steady rain
that fell like a gray curtain   
through which my mother peered:   
patches of depression.
She kept the children under cover.   
We built houses within houses,   
stripping our parents’ bed
of pillows and sheets,
erecting walls out of
The National Geographic
which my father had subscribed to
for years. We feasted
on those pictures of the world,
while the mud oozed
past the windows
knocking over the drab green leaves
of palm fronds
as we ate our spinach.
The mildew grew in rings
around the sink
where centipedes came
swimming up the pipes
on multiple feet   
and the mold grew   
around our small fingers
making everything slippery
to touch.
We were squeamish and pale.

I remember one night   
my sister screamed.
All the lights blinked on   
in the house.
In the sudden brightness,   
we rushed to her room   
and found her crumpled
in the far corner of the bed,
her nightgown twisted in a strange shape;   
her eyes were as huge as mine,
staring into the eyes of the bat   
that clung to the screen.   
Its rodent fingers
finally letting go
as my father jabbed its furry body
with the end of a broom.

Cathy Song, “Leaving” from Picture Bride. Copyright © 1983 by Cathy Song. Reprinted with the permission of Yale University Press.

Source: Picture Bride (Yale University Press, 1983)

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Poet Cathy Song b. 1955

Subjects Trees & Flowers, Eating & Drinking, Weather, Animals, Gardening, Activities, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Cathy  Song


Poet Cathy Song was born and raised in Hawaii and is of Korean and Chinese descent. Her work  draws on her rich Korean-Chinese ancestry as well as her experiences as an American and a woman. In poems that have been compared by critics to the muted tints of watercolor paintings, Song has consistently created a world rich with narrative and imagery that transcends her own ethnic and regional background. Song herself resists . . .

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SUBJECT Trees & Flowers, Eating & Drinking, Weather, Animals, Gardening, Activities, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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