Prelude and Fugue
He is the figure in the doorway,
a pair of tall black boots.
He’s the man in the back
of that Velázquez painting, stepping in,
stepping out of the room—
it’s not clear which—backlit,
face dim, bare outline of a hat
dangling soft and black from his hand.
Who he was
“Handsome,” “tall,” “a banker.”
The unwieldy family portrait’s
How he disappeared
In broad daylight: his shirt, pants, boots
exactly as he’d always worn them,
down the street with a clock at the corner,
past the grocer stacking cabbages, the boy
cutting open his first bunch of newspapers.
Smaller than a button, freer than a thread,
like God now he is everywhere.
Fugere, fuga, fugue.
What she told my father thin:
oil on the bathwater, hand that
always comes up wet and empty—
Tall, not like you, though you
have his temper.
She left everyone, everything,
to chase him—
says my father
about the man called his father—
I bet he was a traitor.
From fuga, meaning ardor
or flight; from fugere, to flee.
The year of his disappearance, weeks
or maybe months after the liberation,
or so I think: I scrape
the peeling paint
only to find more paint—
she bribes a guide to lead her south,
quilting the baby to her back.
A month of creeping nights. Through fields,
through monsooned rivers—the water’s cold,
she says, when she says anything. He lifts
one finger to his lips: Hear that rustle?
The moon, oh the moon is unrelenting, cold
and bitter as new daikon.
Also chasing or pursuing.
Did she ever talk about him, I asked
the man I called my grandfather. No, he said,
shaking his head lightly, deliberately,
she never did.
He’s the figure in the doorway
stepping in, stepping out
of the painting. He’s the moon
retreating from the landscape that
I try to paint, always new.
Fugere, fuga, fugue.
How should I describe the feeling
of joy when I play a fugue? Vibrations
in the wood beneath my chin, between
my fingers, that feel like truth or
not truth, maybe, more its opposite.
Two notes heading off on separate paths
together, briefly, before they part.
And each time I’m surprised, as if
this wasn’t destined from the start.
Annie Kim is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers and a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellow. Her poems appear, or are forthcoming, in Mudlark, Ninth Letter, Asian American Literary Review, DMQ Review and elsewhere. Cyclorama, her first manuscript of poems, was selected as a finalist for the 2015 Kundiman Poetry Prize and Brittingham/Felix Pollak Poetry Prize. She works as an assistant dean for public service at the University of Virginia School of Law.