By Cathy Song b. 1955 Cathy Song
The mornings are his,
blue and white
like the tablecloth at breakfast.   
He’s happy in the house,
a sweep of the spoon
brings the birds under his chair.   
He sings and the dishes disappear.

Or holding a crayon like a candle,   
he draws a circle.
It is his hundredth dragonfly.
Calling for more paper,
this one is red-winged
and like the others,
he wills it to fly, simply
by the unformed curve of his signature.

Waterwings he calls them,   
the floats I strap to his arms.   
I wear an apron of concern,   
sweep the morning of birds.   
To the water he returns,   
plunging where it’s cold,
moving and squealing into sunlight.
The water from here seems flecked with gold.

I watch the circles
his small body makes
fan and ripple,
disperse like an echo
into the sum of water, light and air.   
His imprint on the water
has but a brief lifespan,
the flicker of a dragonfly’s delicate wing.

This is sadness, I tell myself,
the morning he chooses to leave his wings behind,   
because he will not remember
that he and beauty were aligned,
skimming across the water, nearly airborne,   
on his first solo flight.
I’ll write “how he could not
contain his delight.”
At the other end,
in another time frame,
he waits for me—
having already outdistanced this body,
the one that slipped from me like a fish,
floating, free of itself.

Cathy Song, “Waterwings” from Frameless Windows, Squares of Light. Copyright © 1988 by Cathy Song. Reprinted with the permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Frameless Windows, Squares of Light (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1988)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Cathy Song b. 1955

Subjects Sports & Outdoor Activities, The Body, Home Life, Eating & Drinking, Parenthood, Living, Relationships, Activities, Nature

Holidays Mother's Day

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sports & Outdoor Activities, The Body, Home Life, Eating & Drinking, Parenthood, Living, Relationships, Activities, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.