beijing: cinnamon apple candles

i. forbidden city
plastic fans spin. heat rolls off of the streets,
tangible, shimmering.
a girl and her friend lick at melting, overpriced popsicles.
colored sun-umbrellas and bucket hats float above the beijing streets.
washi tape and notebooks.
red pillars and gold trim. evening sunlight.

ii. dongcheng station
ponytails high, dipped in sweat,
ascending and descending on crowded subway stairs.
freezing air conditioning in the cars. on the ground,
a poem written on the back of a wrinkled receipt.
the paper was thin and smooth, the lettering small,
first letter noticeably thicker than the others:
an attempt to get the ink flowing.
silence echoes on the beijing subway.

iii. wudaokou
neon signs of bars, magenta and cerulean
spill onto the streets. bubble tea in our hands,
rolling thoughts and tapioca pearls around in their mouths,
both doughy and sweet.
cold rain against warm skin, cinnamon apple candles.
street food: cold skewers in a cup, spicy oil pooling in the paper bottom.
hot pot: duck blood, red, turned dark gray in tarnished metal.
memories: smiling, holding alpaca-shaped lollipops up to a camera.

iv. sanlitun
shopping bags in hands, overly fancy ice cream stores.
loneliness floated on their minds even though they were together.
astronaut and planets painted on the black statue of a dog,
face covered with freckles of stars. lampposts spray mist
that disappears like clouds of breath.
cicadas sing, a droning elegy.
summer is ending.

v. 798 art district
every word written—
heavy with the weight of you.
we held handles of painted umbrellas,
sat on acrylic benches.
strawberry smoothie, mango smoothie for her.
we sipped through our plastic straws in silence.
i can still taste the cold sweetness in my throat.
a bent paper clip falls out of her pocket.
i pocket it.
cinnamon apple perfume on my skirt.

Kristine Ma is a high school junior hailing from Michigan. She received two national Gold Medals, six Gold Keys and several other regional recognitions from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as the Best of Grade award. In the summer, she attended a creative writing master class at Northwestern University with poet Richie Hofmann. Her work is forthcoming from Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal. Kristine is the English section editor for her school’s academic journal and an editor for her school’s award-winning literary magazine, Spectrum. She is also on the creative writing team at The Incandescent Review. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing piano and oboe, hugging stuffed animals, watching anime, and dreaming.

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