The White Porch

By Cathy Song b. 1955 Cathy Song
I wrap the blue towel   
after washing,
around the damp   
weight of hair, bulky   
as a sleeping cat,
and sit out on the porch.   
Still dripping water,   
it’ll be dry by supper,   
by the time the dust   
settles off your shoes,   
though it’s only five   
past noon. Think
of the luxury: how to use   
the afternoon like the stretch
of lawn spread before me.   
There’s the laundry,   
sun-warm clothes at twilight,   
and the mountain of beans
in my lap. Each one,   
I’ll break and snap   
thoughtfully in half.

But there is this slow arousal.   
The small buttons   
of my cotton blouse
are pulling away from my body.   
I feel the strain of threads,
the swollen magnolias   
heavy as a flock of birds   
in the tree. Already,   
the orange sponge cake   
is rising in the oven.
I know you’ll say it makes   
your mouth dry
and I’ll watch you
drench your slice of it   
in canned peaches
and lick the plate clean.

So much hair, my mother   
used to say, grabbing   
the thick braided rope
in her hands while we washed   
the breakfast dishes, discussing
dresses and pastries.
My mind often elsewhere
as we did the morning chores together.   
Sometimes, a few strands   
would catch in her gold ring.   
I worked hard then,
anticipating the hour
when I would let the rope down
at night, strips of sheets,   
knotted and tied,
while she slept in tight blankets.
My hair, freshly washed   
like a measure of wealth,   
like a bridal veil.
Crouching in the grass,
you would wait for the signal,   
for the movement of curtains   
before releasing yourself   
from the shadow of moths.   
Cloth, hair and hands,   
smuggling you in.

Cathy Song, “The White Porch” 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 Family & Ancestors, The Body, Youth, Home Life, Trees & Flowers, Eating & Drinking, Jobs & Working, Living, Relationships, Activities, Nature

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 Cathy  Song

Biography

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 Family & Ancestors, The Body, Youth, Home Life, Trees & Flowers, Eating & Drinking, Jobs & Working, Living, Relationships, Activities, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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