Photograph of a Girl

Hilo, 1923

It’s the tropic’s perpetual
summer, the torpid background
boringly floral

The eyes wander off
among coconut palms
the seen and not-seen

the way blades
of sunlight sharpen fronds
over the girl’s head

the way they scatter
light like scimitars


Clouds steel themselves
over a heave of hills
The heat’s oppressive

beads of it haze
the scarlet needles
of an ohia

click click click
if you listen
you can hear

the purl of wind


Heart-shaped leaves
of the hau tree weave
an impenetrable thicket

along a back fence
wind spins off shore
spume flowers. An idea

scissors a heart
under the calm exterior
there’s a shadow

someone approaching
in camera colors, boots
The flagstone walk

measures each step
like a ruler


Where is the girl
now? emerging like
a ghost from

a thatch of past
wading through
fountain grass

small swimmer
a sea-side cliff

to the palm tree
with its elephant
trunk, the familiar

cross that marks
a grave


But she can never die!
unless in the negative
unless the reverse world

she is is torn or burned
She is as she always was
A storm of birds

petrels and shearwaters
circle overhead. Salt-scent
churns the wave froth

There’s something bitter
as seaweed in her
the taste the smell

the small quick fish
of the coming years
Who is she

who cannot be
dragged like the ocean
by tides?

Susan Kelly-DeWitt | Mudlark No. 33
Contents | Postcard, Hilo, 1906