3:47 pm in beijing [july 2016]

my grandmother still asleep, her mind shut—or perhaps
pretending, as if closing yourself off from the world is as simple as
indulging a hide-and-seek game with a child—from the sweltering heat,
a fan blowing steadily, sluggishly in the corner of the wooden room.
i draw dreams out of the swirling dust storms i imagine
from my mother’s sighs, hao duo tu ya, cornmeal dust that swallows me
into a fairytale, and i have never been an alice because
my pet rabbit died two weeks ago, before her name even
rolled off my tongue, and my hair has never been—will never be—blonde
enough. the characters of a grey-washed newspaper i cannot
read imprint themselves onto my unseeing eyeballs, and i yawn,
grope around blindly for a pulpy novel that never existed. nature’s alarm,
my grandfather’s withered birds, begins a round—a singular chirp into
an orchestral symphony of cacophonic piccolo shouts,
caged cries for affection that are begrudged by faint smiles, and
i silently count the twitches of my grandmother’s arms and wait for
her to finally wake, rise slowly from the bamboo-matted bed and guide me
forward into the red-tiled kitchen and towards a netted bag of lychees,
towards a next summer that will never come, towards a beijing
i will dream of in my hard, empty american bed.

Kathryn Zheng is a senior at Tenafly High School in New Jersey. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the National Council of Teachers of English. Outside of writing, she enjoys learning languages (currently, her passions are Turkish and Spanish), immersing herself in the world of politics, and playing the ukulele.

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