Notes on Absence

Poetry by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Issue 50 • April 2017 • Norfolk

If I went by the memory of photographs, my mother’s life
          began only at sixteen—there is one of her posing
                    with co-workers in fur coats at Sear’s; and one

of her in high waist jeans, up against a car; a glamour shot
          with black leather held up against her left cheek. I can see
                    myself one Saturday afternoon in the hallway,

too hot outside, the closet open, the plastic tub full of albums
          unlidded. Worn albums spill and scatter on the floor
                    like stepping stones smoothed over by glossy currents

older than me. I see the studio print of my father as a baby—
          a blue onesie—the same one framed on the wall
                    at my grandmother’s, along with others. I sit

on the floor, looking into these windows of stillness.
          But was I only curious about my father’s baby pictures?
                    Did I even ask once about her? Or worse,

did she walk away and cry the day I asked Where are you?
          Why don’t you have baby pictures? Did she answer me
                    and I just forgot? Only when my mother was forty-eight

and my cousin uploaded a photograph did I see: my mother
          on the far left in her baby dress, her sister beside her,
                    her three older brothers with matching checkered shirts,

their soles exposed. There is no time stamp, no cursive to examine
          on the back. I know her family moved too much—a single
                    mother with five children would have to move

too much, and pictures were a luxury left behind for blankets
          and pans. But now there’s this one—a 4x6, black and white,
                    and I can see myself in her outstretched fingers.

Amanda Galvan Huynh is a Chicana poet living in Virginia. She received a 2016 AWP Intro Journal Project Award and was a finalist for the 2015 Gloria Anzaldua Poetry Prize. She will complete her MFA in Creative Writing from Old Dominion University in May.

Illustration by Paul Hostetler

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