Amanda Galvan Huynh

Absence Forgotten

There are no pictures of my mamá’s childhood. No
            baptism. No communion. No family portraits.
                        No Easters, birthdays, Christmases. Every moment

an absence forgotten until I find myself
            on a Saturday morning cleaning the hallway
                        closet. I’m caught between the snores of my daughter

asleep and the quiet of decaying pictures.
            Would the unsnapped photographs fill up an album?
                        Maybe two? Would I be the one to carry them?

On the last good day, I tried to capture Mamá
            with the camera I borrowed from school: thirty-two,
                        hair thin and blonde, foundation creased in her crow’s feet.

We spent the September day at Six Flags where we
            forgot about Lupus for a few breaths. Money
                        we didn’t have. Her body betraying itself—

her body betraying us, me. She died two weeks
            later. The days after my brothers thumbed coin holes
                        at the arcade, laundromats, gas station payphones

and vending machines. Walks to school became a hunt
            for coins lost on the pavement because we were one
                        thousand short. We were without a father and without

family willing to help pay the funeral
            bill. Every night the six of us gathered items
                        to sell. We searched the kitchen tiles, the pockets

of our jeans, the back of the dresser, the loose ends
            of the carpet, and closets. We searched the cushions
                        ‘til we knew how many seams kept it together.

Cicada Shells

I try to regrow
the cut tree

next to the tornado
shelter. Its height,

the bark, the weather
worn spots. I try

to grow its branches
back. The ones

that extended
into a wish-

bone. For three
summers, my only

wish was to climb
into its mouth,

sit in the groove,
but I’d be left

on the ground
with blisters

circled in my palms.
One afternoon you

watched as my arms
realized where

I wanted to go,
pulled me up

so I could see
the top of the stop

sign on the corner.
I saw you sitting

in your wheelchair.
I saw myself

surrounded by cicada
shells ghosting

the branches. Translucent
remains quivering

with a breeze, dipping in
and out of the sun as the

leaves pushed and pulled
shade over them. I saw

myself jump down into
the dirt to bring you one

so carefully chosen.
You and your smile

with back teeth missing,
a skillet-cackled laugh,

the way your fingers
rooted into your palms,

skin giving in to the wind
like laundry on the line.

I see your wheelchair
empty on the porch;

a shell caught between
the sunlight and shade.

Table for One

            Café Louvre, Prague 2017

The menu reaches across the table to hold my hand,
edges its corners into my palms, suggests Loose Tea,

the Mafioso, or Hot Fresh Pressed Orange Juice.
Under Small Meals from Cold Cuisine: Salmon Tartar,

Coleslaw, Carrot Salad with Apple, and Duck Liver Pâté.
Order the pâté, your voice pushes through footsteps and spoons

against china; stretches like a calico cat in the afternoon
sun, and lingers in the hallways of my ears. The chair in front of me:

empty. You’re asleep across the Atlantic, tucked into New York’s
night—how many breaths would it take to return to you? to hear

your voice vibrate through my skin? to watch the sun comb over
the long frame of your body? to run the curve of your shoulder

blade? to smell the mix of fall leaves and rain on your neck? Why
would I ever want to be anywhere far from your center?

Outside this café window: a white chiffon curtain hangs
its hair to feel the wind grasp at its threads. The wires

toothed into stoic buildings oscillate a warning
of an incoming tram. Locals push through a group of cameras

and backpacks. The Palác Metro yawns as a child’s blue
shirt wheels by on her scooter. Three Vietnamese men move

out of her way and continue to smoke. One adjusts
his apron and leans against the restaurant sign: Phở Việt

in red cursive reminds me—you could have landed here
as a refugee. Instead of English on your tongue, it could’ve been

Czech. Instead of Minh-Đức, you could’ve been named Minh-Trí.
Instead of three siblings, maybe four. Instead of the pie-shaped fleck

in your right eye, it could’ve been a brushstroke. Instead of liver pâté,
coleslaw. Instead—I could be with a menu—with just an empty chair.

Author Portrait

Amanda Galvan Huynh has received scholarships/fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Sundress Academy for the Arts, NY Summer Writers Institute, and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She was a winner of a 2016 AWP Intro Journals Project Award, a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship, and a 2017 Pushcart nominee. Her work can be found in the following journals: RHINO Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, Silk Road Review, The Boiler, Huizache, and others.