An Abecedarian for Szechuan
a poem by Sabrina Mei
America doesn’t smell like this, was my first thought coming
back after seven years, seven years inking myself redwhiteblue.
Cigarette butts fill the gaps between pavement, diseased
daisies in this industrial meadow.
Follow the familiar curve of your grandmother’s eyelid to your own, kiss her
gentle brow, kiss
hands that pucker from monsoons of acid past.
If her love is the bowls of fruit on your nightstand, half past eight, or cold
jade pressed into palm, you must
know that it is
love, all the same.
Mandarin may sometimes feel like sandpaper against skin, and
niceties slip through the cracks that seem to show
over and over in quiet
places. Your memory will be
quite selective—you will
remember the conversations that flited between yellowed walls: How
sad it is that she has an accent. You can
trace stitched satin in the damask that flowers across your pillow,
under your sheets. You will feel as though it is all in
vain, this trying, all this trying, but you must try to see this
Xiǎo gū niang, little princess, little girl, you must
yell. You must grow like the
zhǎng that lingers on your mother’s tongue.
"An Abecedarian for Szechuan" explores the bittersweet relationship between immigrant and homeland, and the generational burden that this bond carries.
Sabrina Mei is a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD. Her work has previously been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, John Hopkins University, Montpelier Arts Center, and the Yellow Barn Studio. In her spare time, she enjoys rereading Sherlock Holmes and watching an objectively excessive amount of cooking videos. You can find her on instagram @s.abrinamei.