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Batista, Yilan, We Deserted the Temples, then We Kissed Them.


Yilan Batista
Age: 16, Grade: 11

School Name: Riverdale Country School, Bronx, NY
Educator: Abbe Karmen

Category: Poetry

We Deserted the Temples, then We Kissed Them.

My dreams are the smoke 
fading on the tip 
of the grievers’ nighttime cigarettes 
or perhaps my dreams are the steam
rising from the dumplings 
served in the little shop
across the street from the library 
where middle school students 
stayed up to 3 o’clock in the morning to study because their faces stung too hard 
from their mothers’ palms, crying at them 
to work their way to the ticket 
that will bring them to New York City 

My dreams are the painting 
without the dragon’s eyes 
I do not see the life in these dreams 
they were drowned across the vast seas 
between where I live and where I am from 
they were choked in these waters 
waters polluted with all the fabricated futures 
we were fed to believe 
sweetened and honeyed over the years 
presented to us in shimmering glory  
in sparkles that sang on our nightstands
but died when we went to sleep 

Home is a crepuscule disappearing 
into a dying longing
like cherry blossoms swept away 
in an April rain 
Home is a light I was tricked into killing 
and when I am asleep is the only time 
it is alive again.
When I am asleep is the only time 
I can climb back up the steps 
of the gray rounded hills of 普陀山
to see it again. 
And of course, to see you.
On these hills, I feel my spine break.
Slowly. Bone by bone.
Until each piece is a fragment
offering themselves 
to the corners of a lost sky.
Maybe if I give myself to this lost sky 
I can reach some sort of heaven
even a lonely heaven is a good heaven 
and maybe there I’ll find the seeds I need
to cultivate these abandoned roots 

Lay me down here, 
in the alley where my mother grew up 
in the hidden streets with the quiet trees 
that hum with a history 
which always manages 
to dance away from me.
Lay me down here 
in front of the altar where my grandfather
can look down and see me. 
Lay my wounds bare here 
I don’t know how to heal them 
but I hope that if I shiver cold enough 
in the temple where I cracked open
my knees to pray for you 
in the temple which I abandoned  
in the temple which I will now kiss 
with every breath I have left 
I hope that if I listen hard enough in this temple
I will hear you, 外公
and you will be able to teach me
how to be the orchid, the 兰 of the 怡兰 
you always wanted me to be
and I can come back 
and learn to love you 
and myself