Esther Ra

Through the Blurry Window

Saul Leiter Photo Exhibition, Seoul, South Korea

I love galleries, their hushed chapel silence,
how they illuminate what is refulgent
and necessary. People push
through spacious rooms, faces naked
with desire and belief. But mostly I love
that one person’s world
is worthy of a long slow afternoon,
pureness of attention and silence.
Every throbbing display a testament
that what was loved can be loved once again:
flung speckle of raindrops glassing the eye,
figures washed to a breath of spread fog.
Nothing special really, what seizes the heart:
a traffic light’s cool emerald appraisal,
tangled feet under pale, falling snow.
To the face, indistinct, turned away from our eyes,
I love you, stranger once alive. I think of how love
means more than eyes flayed open, every filament
standing sharp in the sun. Of how tenderness
sometimes smudges the edge of all cruelty,
renders us harmless, vaguely lovely.
Walking home in the night I think of your grief,
the distance settling between us like snow.
And briefly I let the resentment recede,
as I hold you, quiet body of wavering ghost,
my soft stranger, my blurry most beautiful thing.

Esther Ra is a bilingual writer and illustrator from Seoul, South Korea. She is the author of book of untranslatable things (Grayson Books, 2018) and the founder of The Underwater Railroad, a literary reunification project. Her work has also been published in Boulevard, Rattle, The Rumpus, Twyckenham Notes, and Korea Times, among others. Esther has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pushcart Prize, the 49th Parallel Award, the Sweet Lit Poetry Prize, and the Vineyard Literary Poetry Prize. In writing, as in life, she is deeply interested in the quiet beauty of the ordinary. Visit her website at