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