The day our fourth-grade teacher projected peppered film
of static and ash falling indiscriminately,
I wrote a diary entry
and showed it to my mother. Only days later
in passing conversation did she remark
that the tenth, too, was her birthday and I
realized I had once again
left her in the dust.
My mother had been pregnant with me, in Nanjing,
when Manhattan caved into its
sea-level sinkhole heart,
when cinders lined the creases
of yesterday’s birthday cards. This doomed her.
How could she have known then, a new life inside her, another
waiting in America,
that she would wear the billowing gowns
of dust her whole life?
We are told by crinkled, crinoline
pages that former ladies
forgot their souls lived in the soft
concave and convex
of their breathing abdomens —
forgot, laced them still and pretty
and choked on their spirits as they were
squeezed out of throats.
My mother chokes not on thread and stitches
but on a mist of rubble, falling — not all at once
like the flood upon the city,
but slowly, layered over years and years
of caving in.
By Meimei Xu
Meimei Xu is a junior at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. She is a recipient of a 2018 National Gold Medal for Journalism from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and her nonfiction and poetry will move onto national judging this year. Her work has also been recognized by the Library of Congress. She currently works as a content writer for the Adroit Journal and has attended the 2018 Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop.