Age: 16, Grade: 11
School Name: Riverdale Country School, Bronx, NY
Educator: Abbe Karmen
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
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