Photograph of the Missing Being

Jennifer Tseng

for Sydney Acosta

The detail that pricks

Is the hand, the hand.

The hand I recognize

As yours is hers.

Not yet born, you are alive

In the photograph.

Not yet dead, she is alive

In the photograph.

What was; what will be.

Held together

By your mother’s body.

Is this holding effortless?

Is this holding a labor?

She holds the cat to her

Breast, as if practicing.

She is learning to love

You in the future:

Hold me, Mama.

I’m taller than you.

She never grew old.

The detail that pricks

Is your hand

Holding her


Jennifer Tseng is the author of Thanks for Letting Us Know You Are Alive, poems made with her late father’s English letters, which won the Juniper Prize for Poetry.
Originally published:
March 20, 2024


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