North Potomac, MD
Richard Montgomery High School
pídàn shòu ròu zhōu / stretch marks patterned like pine branches / hundred year feasts of saltine crackers / i haven’t been the same since i came here / i want an elegy for the subterranean / for those whose skins have yellowed under a fluorescent moon / for those who find sustenance in cooking oil fumes / for those who write love notes on paper napkins / on waiters’ pads / on receipts / for those who have cut themselves un-canning tuna / for those who squat on overturned cabbage crates / for those surprised to find they’re still breathing / breathing / after the day’s shift
zhà húntún / i am / you are / he is / she is / it is / we are / they are / learning english / scribbling madly away in worn notebooks / like poets / spelling out sentences under the blankets / grasping desperately for words / words / like cockroaches / like twisted ankles / like can openers / the tongue asunder / self-conscious americans order zhà húntún in accented chinese / i smile back in broken english
gàn chǎo niú hé / all crooked teeth / reckless driving / shaggy hair / he cuts onions fast like magic johnson on the court / flying up to the free-throw line / slam dunk / he has hands licked by hot oil / scars and burns across them like ophiolites / he tells us it’s been seven years since he’s seen china / and he doesn’t miss it one bit / he lies / he peels oranges like dreams / fragrant rinds falling by his tattered shoes / he cooks anything on the menu / except gàn chǎo niú hé / and that’s memory / memory / what he won’t disclose
zuǒ zōngtáng jī / america / is love pressed dearly of past and future / toiling forgetful in the present / america i profess i’ve used expired coupons / i’ve searched for you in the syrup of canned peaches / i’ve bitten my nails to stubs / i’ve drunk dry milk powder with water until i coughed up pennies / rusty and cold / i’ve averted my eyes from the righteous / i’ve entangled dreams in hairnets / america i profess i’ve come looking for you / you who must bear my body / carry me
qīngzhēng quán yú / when i was young / i too had many dreams
Brilliantly written piece. Important, honest, and beautifully crafted. “I smiled back in broken english” completely stole my heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lydia Wei is a student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD, and will graduate in 2020. She writes because she believes that language can illuminate our histories and our heritage. During her free time, Lydia enjoys making blueberry biscuits and going for very long walks.