Second Place – 2023 Beverly Hopkins Contest for High School Students
“I really like the oblique storytelling going on in this one. The use of anaphora in the poem gives it a compelling, yet ultimately devastating, rhythm.”Allison Joseph, 2023 Hopkins Contest Judge
by SHANGRI-LA HOU
John Burroughs School
Somewhere there was love, a god, an incision bleeding out the belly of life.
There was a Chinese girl in America before there was an American girl in China.
There was hair-pulling, eye-pulling.
There were father’s fathers and father’s brothers who couldn’t stay for some third son’s second
round of daughters.
There were gifts from po-po: a kiss, a red envelope, a piano.
There was Florida that gave you a sun-kissed, beach girl tan, but look at yourself.
There were the parties where the adults played cards and brought dinner in deep, blue-and-white
There were all of the other children who piled their plates with feng zhua, peking duck, tofu, noodles, but you had learned to scrunch your face up in disgust, a towel wringing its weight out.
There was someone’s son who asked you why you could use chopsticks but not your own mouth.
There was taking your love for one language to feed your hate for another.
There was moving states twice, your parents finding kinship through the tongue.
There was your mother explaining to here new friends that if they asked you to pass the rice in
Mandarin you would refuse to respond in anything except English, as if
there was a choice:
But look at yourself.