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Li, Bridget, to washington heights


Bridget Li
Age: 16, Grade: 11

School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Caitlin Donovan

Category: Poetry

to washington heights

Summer always makes me think, dappled shadows 
and coconut sunscreen, so plastic on my tongue, melting into 
chlorine, trapped with connect four on the rug, it scratches, the mildew
reeks, skins of the leather bus chairs peel, pull out the 
crumbling sponge stuffing, thunderstorms and yellow watermelon, forgotten 
homework packets and free lunches from the neighborhood school, paper 
fibers from the milk carton stick to the inside of my lower lip, grandma pulls 
my hand on the scooter, the dusk air, thrumming with games of tag and 
burn of the metal slides, the stickiness of the evening coats the inside of 
my mouth with a film, the sprinklers broken but we still
dance in the drizzle, the old man with his 
piragua cart, the green-white umbrella shrugs and slumps, rhythm of 
graffitied basketball courts and teeth on cold lemon-lime gatorade, shouting over the pool table 
echoes, bodega around the corner left it’s doors open, maybe 
this time I’ll find a tamarind mamita,
I am tripping over subway grates and picking at scabs covered in
neosporin, grease trapped under fingernails, I am checking 
out too many magic
tree house books from the library on 180th, bag slipping
off my shoulders,

unfastened sandal straps leave
bony ankles raw, the schoolyard and
rusted fences and neighborhood graffiti, fade under 
white paint, “renovating,” it cracks and flakes, and 
somewhere along the line the bodega owner
stopped giving me free popsicles,
“out of business,” sign pasted,
windows boarded up, now summer is just 
burning pavement and wavering loneliness, barbeque from
next door splutters, 

I am now just wishing
for a cessation, I stare at the flies withering 
on the mesh screen, their guts
rotting and the sunset flickers, 
wisdom teeth decay as they come in, 
haven’t felt sweetness 
graze my lips in years.