Dear Yaniris,

Susanna Lang

This is not the letter you have been waiting for.
The letter you wrote your mother came to me instead
because you don’t know where she’s gone,
because in the photo you do have, her smile
is full of teeth and gums but is not full of you.
Because her mind and body are elsewhere
though her nose is as long as yours.
Whatever music she’s listening to, it is not
the song you’ve plugged into one ear, the other
earbud in a friend’s ear. Where is the bullhorn,
the boombox, the magic trick that will carry your voice
to her ears? Is your mother on Instagram,
on Snapchat, can you find her in the thickets
of your digital connections?
            Photos have ears
but do not listen, have mouths but do not speak.
You can’t borrow a photograph’s earrings
or high-heeled shoes, can’t try on its dress, twirl around
with the girl in the mirror while the photo watches
the two of you dance. A photo can’t help you
with your homework in the late afternoon, can’t ground you
when you skip your chores. You can’t go to the grocery store
with a photo taped to the cart, can’t ask a photo
which cereal to buy this week. You can’t tell a photo
about the mean girls at school and the things they whisper
in the bathroom – or you can, but the photo
whispers things, too.
         It was a long time ago
that your mother left you in the snow,
on the stairs, hungry. More snow is forecast
for this weekend. You are still hungry.