Passport Photograph

Lachlan Chu

I smile for the camera, sure to look it in the eye, to sit clockhand straight, to hold my breath. I will be an American today. When the light blinks its pale crash around me, I feel my thoughts stutter, forgetting all the words. It’s hard to explain—a deep longing, maybe. I can only imagine what’s beyond the rounded glass, on the other side of my superficial reflection. Machinery. Walls to deflect light and slanted glances. A screen to steal another person’s face. I know the something that’s further, and I keep grinning as the man hands me documents, drumming my toes, waiting for my next performance. The stillness and the suffering, our patience and my hand shaking from scribbling the same English words on paper, fury and lead and crying in front of my daughter because I know I can’t teach her to speak; that is the something that never gets through. The camera lenses and us, we wait for callbacks, practice our act in a place full of strangers. Performers, lifelong, full-shift ventriloquists: we forget our own voices come night.

Lachlan Chu is an emerging poet from California whose work has been recognized by Narrative Magazine, the Bay Area Creative Foundation, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, among others. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Nightjar Magazine, The Afterpast Review, RECESSES, the Bay Poets podcast, and elsewhere. He serves as EIC for The Acedian Review, and was born on 06/06/2006.