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Aubade to the Fire by My Feet

CAS for Database

Becky Zhong

Shanghai, China

Shanghai American School


Aubade to the Fire by My Feet

After Ocean Vuong

I heard the first breath of winter and

Mistook it for a mother’s bellow.

Swollen throats tucked behind

Bedroom walls.

My father left a trail of smog in our house that

Season. For years, I waited for a fire to burn.


You told me once you tried so hard to find traces of

              Yourself in me. Bleated with my

Infant body pressed against your chest for the first

               Time at the hospital—skin weaving into skin—but

Said it felt like you were clutching onto yourself

               More than you were a daughter.

I didn’t know what to do with this, so I wrote poetry instead.


A bleary summer: a girl is laying next to her mother, parallel. They watch the ceiling

Fan spin to the rhythm of each others breath, picturing it inhaling them in . The

Mother thinks about how they could extend infinitely if they wanted to, leave

Hand-in-hand. The girl thinks about all the ways in which they will never intersect.


I learned (too late perhaps) that we were birthed in the same hospital, Ma, decades apart.

How can you claim we are not alike one another when your name is the only hymn I ever sing to.


Say you’ll forgive him. Say you’ll forgive you. Say you won’t.

Say you’ll recognize yourself in me one day. Say the smog will

Exit through the sky and so will we—the only place that’ll burn

Will me the browns of our eyes.

Say you’ll teach me how to cup all these flames into my palm,

Then swallow it whole.


“Aubade to the Fire by My Feet” is an intimate examination of intergenerational yearning, eloquently braiding together themes of identity, girlhood, and displacement through depictions of a family enshrouded with fire. Truly, this piece sings in its cyclical exploration of mothers and daughters–how reflections of each other “extend infinitely” yet “never intersect.”


Becky is a recent high school graduate from Shanghai, China. She's passionate about all things storytelling, whether through acting, film, or creative writing. When she's not writing, you can find her binging Criminal Minds (again!) and Fleabag.

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