Spaces We Leave Empty

By Cathy Song b. 1955 Cathy Song
The jade slipped from my wrist   
with the smoothness of water   
leaving the mountains,

silk falling from a shoulder,
melon slices sliding across the tongue,   
the fish returning.

The bracelet worn since my first birthday   
cracked into thousand-year-old eggshells.   
The sound could be heard
ringing across the water

where my mother woke in her sleep crying thief.   
Her nightgown slapped in the wind   
as he howled clutching his hoard.

The cultured pearls.   
The bone flutes.
The peppermint disks of jade.

The clean hole
in the center, Heaven:   
the spaces we left empty.

Cathy Song, “Spaces We Leave Empty” 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 Death, Living

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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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