2011 Poetry Winners
My Grandmother's House by Yun-Jung
I Am Too by Hailan
Playing Between Two Worlds by Jingyi
My Grandmother's House by Yun-Jung, Korea/MA, age 18
It surrounds me,
The smell of dried ginseng and fertilized bean curd,
Clay vases that I could curl up in
But hold instead a snake immortalized in rice wine.
My father tells me
The persimmon tree was planted when he was born
In this strange country.
Now it stretches out sturdy branches,
Weighed down by an abundance of blushing fruit.
He plucks one from the branches I can’t reach,
And hands me the sticky sweet product of their efforts.
Scraping dirty feet across stone steps,
My sister and I slide open the panel doors and wonder
How people can live in a house made of paper.
And we hurry to find the answers to our questions
Sitting in our grandmother’s bedroom.
She sits as if the whole world was hers to bear on her
When she speaks, her words make little more sense to us
Than a fork being run across a plate.
And when we can’t piece together the words to answer her questions,
She sighs at the failures of her son
To pass down the inheritance of her tongue.
But she takes from me the soft persimmon
And peels the skin back to reveal the ripe summer’s sunset.
She shows me how to slip out the meaty fruit
And suck out the sweet juices between my teeth,
Smiling at my proudly candied hands.
I Am Too by Hailan China/CA, age 16
I am from
a snow still morning that perches aloft
and blushes at a wintry sunbeam kiss,
like crimson lanterns of velvety soft,
and red-pigtailed child’s sugar-coated bliss.
In rusty black bikes rattling and tattling,
letters and pretty art not prosaic,
into stifling swarms in subways battling,
these waves of heads, a weaving mosaic.
But as gossamer floating, passing by,
a tear for my home, and good-bye
I am from dumplings steaming
silky tofu quivering
and swirling memories of grins with each
savory smell of shops and fairs,
smooth, sliding noodles in rich beef broth
strawberries ruby red and glistening black seeds
luscious, plump, and steamy rice
dinner together, tonight, everyday
and laughter leaping
I am from
Milady and Amaranta,
loquacious Miss Bates,
a stubborn red-head, freckled too,
Hot cocoa on rainy days,
a single ivy leaf through a winter’s storm,
Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve,
Marmee knitting by the fire, a country gentleman,
and a muttering rabbit by their ear
I am from
delightful shelves of books and books
the art of losing is not hard to master
let other pens dwell on guilt and misery
nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions
it is a truth universally acknowledged
and down they forgot as up they grew
but most, most heartily,
the mere habit of learning to love is the thing
Hailan on Life Between Cultures:
The hardest about balancing two cultures is experiencing and knowing the uniqueness of both while seeing the often untrue stereotypes that each has about the other. It's difficult not to bristle when Chinese parents are mocked on Youtube or the word "communism" is flung with rampant fervor, even though it is ignorantly used. But by the same token, I can see the Chinese wrongful impressions of an American, often an unfair portrayal of laziness and gun-wielding danger. I'm glad that for many of us who have two cultures in our lives, we are knowledgeable of the inaccurate impressions that one culture may have of the other. But it is difficult to be courageous to step into the spotlight to bring up the subject because we are all very sensitive about nations and patriotism. Of course, I also know only a little about the world but am constantly learning.
To me, the best part about being an immigrant has been the conglomeration of unique experiences of two very different cultures that I otherwise would not have had. I think experiencing both Chinese and American cultures has helped me grow as a more conscientious, observant person. It really has given me a broader perspective on people and life in general, and I hope that I will always be mindful of the people of all cultures because of my multicultural life.
Playing Between Two Worlds by Jingyi China/MD, age 15
The girl delicately plucks the strings of the zither
creating a rich and harmonious music that no one else can seem to understand.
Music flows out, soft and graceful against the backdrop of run down apartments;
with trinkets strewn about on the hard pavement sidewalks, vying for attention.
The music becomes louder and more demanding
as cars zoom thoughtlessly across the tumbling streets, thinking not of lights nor people.
Everything is shaded with hues of brilliant red and sunlight yellow
reminding people of glory, pride and trust.
The music continues, with tired bodies walking home against a brilliant fading street, dim and worn down, holding bags upon heavy bags of groceries barely tumbling out.
The girl smiles, nonchalant and undaunted, not afraid;
bravely playing alongside the border of two very different worlds.
Jingyi on Life Between Cultures:
The hardest thing about balancing two cultures is being dedicated to both. Sometimes, it's impossible because cultures are often completely different and independent of each other. The best thing about being a part of two cultures is the different types of food you get to eat and the fact that you fit in with two completely different groups of people.