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Cobblestones Under My Feet

I wrote my Chinese name for the first time in two years yesterday.

The strokes are as uneven as ever, lopsided and untidy—

The chicken scratch of someone more comfortable in another language,

One that is not her own.


The pattern of pavement tiles through sneaker soles is a stiff massage

My feet find an old comfort in.

Concrete is unfeeling and does not care.

I don’t remember the exact shape of the old buildings anymore—

Some are still there, an echo relic of the past, but the others are new and shining,

Crystal white in the summer sun, mini metropolises of commerce metal and glass.


Coming home was a fresh breath of air into my lungs—

To breathe out feels like a betrayal.

I fear that once I let this air out of my nose and mouth,

It would never flow in again.


I feel the calcification of my lungs against the air.

In my ear rings the drowning gasp of a suffocating body fighting to live—

A fish flopping on ice at the market.


Cobblestones Under My Feet by Chiu-yi Rachel Ngai - Arkansas, U.S./Hong Kong

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