Anna Xiao

tongue to the many moons
and summers past. ten years
ago, i was plucked from the land
of my ancestors: a village
tucked between the mountains
of fuzhou, a place i now visit

in dreams         i have not yet returned.
i taste half-formed words
on my lips: forgotten yet familiar.
they are of a broken dialect,
and my tongue trips over the sounds
stuck in my throat like incense,
choking. i cannot breathe

the language of my people.
characters splatter on paper, broad-
stroked, as i paint the soft sighs
and exhales of half-remembered phrases;
they sound like bamboo rustling
and china breaking. the ink
bleeds, seeping into parchment
and my mind. i cling to the words.

when i speak, the sounds are warbled,
accented by a foreign tongue so i listen
instead. i catch only pieces. they tug
at memories that swirl like tea leaves
at the bottom of a pot; they are all
i have left. i want to etch the evidence
of my heritage onto mountains and in stone,
onto my skin and my heart so i cannot forget.
but i fear in time, it too will fade.

Anna Xiao is a second year from Long Island, New York studying Computer & Data science. She lives for ice cream but is mildly concerned that her obsession is becoming a borderline addiction.