you stumble into a Shanghai market brimming
with slaughter and the typewriter sputter
of haggling. Steel-jowled men pin down
thrashing carp, strike the head, gut the belly. Shuck
the soul clean.
Press your fingernails into your wrist with the same craving as
a childhood bear or your mother’s old perfume:
your pulse hasn’t yet shed the tempo of fluorescent-
light air-conditioned grocery aisles and
cardboard packages of frozen fish sticks. The past clings to
the backs of your eyelids.
In the language of moon yolk
you, your father, his father share a surname: royalty,
scrubbed syllables chafing your mouth. All the characters
glitter: radicals sweeping like silk, form
slender and gold. You can’t spool
your tongue around something so ripe
without breaking it wide open.
Even after a month in this swollen nation, the scent
of the Pacific Northwest won’t rinse out from your hair,
no matter how much rice wine you soak
into your scalp. Sunlight and ocean and coffee,
a constant reminder of a place where you belonged.
You complain about the smog here
smothering the stars, but aren’t you simply frustrated
that nothing seems familiar?
Some days, you sit on your grandmother’s doorstep, the lemonade sun
curling into your skin.
Watch the filmy-eyed beggars cradling
empty glass bottles, the market vendors dripping sun-whipped
peaches, apples, oranges five yuan a kilogram, the children
skinning their elbows and knees. The same sort
of bustle in cities everywhere. A gradual thawing:
Learn how to let go of what you know.
Maybe this is where you find love, in the crush of sweating
eight a.m. subway terminals and thick summer rain
flossed with lightning and apartment windowsills heaving
with potted herb sprigs and fresh laundry. Home is a horizon we all chase;
if you squint, the sun might meld into the lilt of the skyline.
Rona Wang is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Portland, OR. She has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, The Sierra Nevada Review, and National Poetry Quarterly. Currently, she serves as a poetry reader for The Blueshift Journal, youth poet ambassador for her city, and editor for her school magazine. Her writing can be found in The Best Teen Writing of 2014, The Sierra Nevada Review, Textploit, Canvas, and other publications. When not writing, she’s working out a math problem or getting lost in downtown. She blogs about studying and the college admissions process at http://chasingcollegedreams.tumblr.com.