litany for the long moment, 3

She sits facing the open doorway, the light at her back. She is writing a letter she will not complete.

“It’s hard to write you after such a long pause… too long, I’ve got nothing to say… Tomorrow I’m going to Philadelphia where they’re printing off a little book I made in Rome, a little publisher’s doing it. All in all I’m pleased about it but not too excited because it’s an old piece of work.”


I spoke to the woman in the back office of the little photo processing shop she ran. We sat on metal stools. She began speaking about her childhood in Korea. How poor her family was. How they sent her here to live with a distant cousin who was a professor at the university. “Philosophy,” she said.

But he was not a kind man, this philosopher and so she left his house.


what did you do then        I got a job at a Korean bar        I poured soju 

and sang songs that my mother had taught me        sometimes the man

who owned the bar        would sing with me too        he wanted me

to come home with him        but I was too sad        and didn’t want to

I just wanted        to pour drinks and then go back        to the dingy room

I shared with the other waitress        so I had to leave        that place too


She carried a gray box with her photographs in it.

Sontag says: “To collect photographs is to collect the world.”


When winter comes, I tell you: This is how

I will undress you in my city. The bridges

are being built up and then torn down again.

Here it is always winter.

Slate gray sky. The absence of birds.

My fingers along the length of your spine.

Bridge lights blinking and broken.

I tell you: Under this concrete, a river flows.


“Do you remember that day when we had to go to the canteen but instead we ate in a restaurant and I ate chicken and peas and I was so happy about everything?”


Sontag: “Photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal.”

“Photographs document sequences of consumption.”

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limited experience to the search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir.”

Souvenir: from the French, for the act of remembering.


“I have time.”

Your mediocre cloud. Your little mouse.

She was not sad, her friends will say. Exuberant –

ambitious, fragile. Tender. But not

sad. She filled a room with feathers.

She hung fabric in the room

to resemble wings. She said: “When I return,

we will eat pears.” What is life, after all,

but apprenticeship in dying?

Little mouse. Topolino. “Kisses

on the mouth are a like a miracle.”