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Transcultura or First Last Day

Karen Ge

Naperville, IL

Naperville North High School


CAS for Database

Born into the wrong culture/time/language?

“To be ill adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown,” 

Winterson writes, and I hope she’s 

right because I’m (a senior dammit, apply to college)


growing rough around the edges, hair dissolving, one fingernail jabbing, 

thickening and hurt


growing rough inside the edges, heart dilating, words colliding, 

confusing and wild


Grease spilling through the diamonds of a fence netting, bulging and hideous

yet never able to quite fall into the earth

Instead, frying, popping, evaporating into nonexistence

dripping into cave pools, gone before understood


Pero en el cielo giran nubes blancas de sueño

y en el infierno giran fuegos negros de amor

nunca volveré jamas… 

ni al este tiempo ni a la gente que lo habitaba


(But in heaven wheel white clouds of dreams

and in hell swirl black fires of love

I’ll never return…

neither to this time nor the people that inhabit it)


Jagged, cristalizado, desaparecido


(Jagged, crystallized, the disappeared)


Trickling from a nozzle, lost

to the Vastness of the world

but el desafío solo vive entre dos personas

(but the challenge lies only between two persons)

Sería altanera to assume some higher plane of influence

(It would be arrogant… )


Collapsing, la vida crying, la vida, keening

for a hand to be held

in your lap.


I love the way that the speaker switches between Spanish and English, often translating the Spanish in parentheses (because it suggests that the English translation is not the way that the words first came into their mind). It beautifully captures the struggle of being bilingual. I also love the images of the “grease spilling through the… fence,” because it might reflect on the many struggles that immigrants face, the way that Americans view immigrants in a negative light, and the way that immigrants are often “gone before understood.” There is a lot to love in this poem.

Karen graduated Naperville North High School (Naperville, IL) in 2019 and currently attends Stanford University. She loves studying Spanish poetry and translation, sings musical theater off-key, and plays ultimate frisbee. The beauty of this world is sometimes a bit too much for her, but that's what math and fuzzy blankets are for!


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