Age: 16, Grade: 10
School Name: Dalton School, New York, NY
Educator: Chris Hood
My Grandmother’s House
My grandmother’s house is buried within a hectic city,
on a quiet street in Chinatown.
Too-steep steps lead to two heavy important-seeming doors.
On the inside is a handwritten sign, composed of impenetrable characters;
Perhaps a reminder to keep the door shut?
Really, a reminder that I don’t know Mandarin (Spanish seemed easier to take).
My grandmother’s house is not rocking chairs or
the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
It’s cluttered, laden with odds and ends, things, stuff.
Green nail polish bottles, a knight’s armor, jade vases,
baby dolls, hundreds of photographs, mismatched furniture.
Since I last visited, a pair of giant scissors added itself to the collection,
and a chuckle at its absurdity escapes my lips —
but then a picture of her when she was perhaps my age, unsmiling,
her scrawny figure consumed by a tattered, stained shirt
as she worked on a small farm in China stands out,
and shame seizes my mind.
She retired at the age of 76 not long ago,
motivated by infused ideals of hard work, no excuses, and saving,
and then I recognize,
as my face is reflected in the photo, aligned with her own,
that a gigantic pair of scissors for which there could be no purpose,
dozens of bottles of unused perfume,
or a broken lamp that no longer works,
owning things, and frayed excessiveness