Catherine KHN Magia

April 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm (Uncategorized) ()


In a span of incense burning
There’s a stillness
In the Brooklyn night
When my mother passes
A tortoise shell comb
Through my hair
Black as sugarcane gelatin
And gnarled as roots
Touching her feet.

My mother tells stories
About the malleability of hair
In Vietnam, a young girl
Watches her tresses dance
Unfurling raven wings
Flying overhead
Men who think
She’s flirting.

A wife
Twists her hair into a bun
Round, richly layered
Buried in the crevices
And small silver pins
Secrets that her husband
May not uncoil.

Hair is memory
Left on the scissor’s edge.
The odor of gunpowder,
Sunstroke from the rice fields,
And resilient salt that remains
After water, land, and bodies

My mother does not stop
The slow rhythm of the comb
The day my father left
Hands stroking as her own
Long, uncoiled hair
Blacker than the negative
Of a photograph
Miraculously cut.

*Toc The refers to long, flowing hair in Vietnamese. The word “the” can also be used in a colloquial expression, to swear by.


Somehow we had missed the eclipse
Slow thickening of shadow
Celestial molasses careening across
Smooth white dough, darkening and sweetening

To watch the moon close in my imagination
Curved silver eye; blinking, blinded, and reemerging
A survivor of the sky
A narrowing shutter unable to resist light

I don’t remember the sleeping,
Only the stirring, your isolated movements
How you position your body like a mummy’s
Indifferent as wood, unable to slumber with anyone touching

I dreamed of standing at the doorway
Perpendicular to the moon, elliptical light trickling
Through my bones, the momentary flickering
Of the earth’s silhouette, for a minute, swaying together
Like trees in the wind, an unlikely pair

It will be years before this happens again.

Catherine KHN Magia is still discovering her own poetic voice. She has been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review and Lips. She has been a TV talk show host on public access television in Northern NJ. She works as a manager of marketing research for Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and currently resides in Plainsboro, NJ.



  1. Synthia Dang said,

    Catherine, you a woman of so many wonderful talents. Congratulations!

    Love the photo too!

  2. Sue Repko said,

    Catherine –
    Thanks for the link. Your words and voice take us to another time, another place. Best wishes for your upcoming appearances,

  3. Shubhra said,

    Hi Cathy,

    These poems are truly amazing! I look forward to read more!

  4. Ilene Dube said,


    Through your amazing use of language, hair becomes a profound substance.

    Thank you.

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