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The White Porch

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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)
The White Porch

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