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Li, Sophia, Border Crossing


Sophia Li
Age: 17, Grade: 12

School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Kasumi Parker

Category: Poetry

Border Crossing

Angel Island Immigration Station: 1939. Found in a detention barrack, engraved by one of many immigrants subject to intense interrogation. English translation.

what is your name // silence becoming // headspace graying // sewn shut // clover knot buttons limp. // the ones my mother had twined // from // a strand of // my sister’s only and favorite qipao // my father’s straw hat // and her only pair of dusty red shoes. // for weddings only. // your name. // i do not remember // holes dotting the hem of my pants // as he unbuttoned me // pen slashing. // real on paper // i was // folded over // creased from jagged crescent nails // and pasted on these paper walls. // where do you live // behind three acres of rice patties // and a small chipped guardian lion // i had always ridden. // how many steps from the field to your house // counting four hundred on slow days // three hundred fifty-nine when my father came back for new years. // which pictures are on the walls // grandfather’s portrait // painted in thin strokes chipped and crumbling // my mother praying // sister sleeping // father walking me to the gate // one last time // my eyes of ebony // blind. // unwritten under grease-coated white fingertips // limp. // his row of shining brass circles // my flesh consumed in crusts // pockets overflowing // taken. // what is your relationship with family here // scarlet strings bind my tongue // wed overseas // i did not wear red // plain and imposing // imposter // improve // prove // prove myself // tearing at the seams // and i alone // his shadows lingering. //

i look behind corners // to catch the past slipping by // on these paper walls // my breath // only the passing of air // leave real angels. //

who are you //

erased // ripped apart //

border crossed. //