IMG_4733
Olympic Park, Beijing, August 2013

Listen

京You held me in the hollow behind my mother’s navel and gave me the first breaths of winter

a baby girl born in a room full of boys

you rocked me in the arms of a hospital that knew only 友好 of the Japanese

the skyscrapers grew with each passing year as the population booms

bicycles peddled by peddlers go past the rows of cars honking at each other during rush hour

unfiltered Smoke curls up from factories to crowd the overcrowded cities

I breathe second-hand smoke in the streets and fumes from the subway warmed gutters steaming with rain hitting hot ground The kitchen of my 公公姥姥is filled with the sounds of boiling kettles and grimy floors that have accumulated dirt for decades Dust mingled with sweat and sun courses through my lungs – 华侨,移民Chinese American Kiwi immigrant returning to another home 五道口is full of expatriates and others like me, Chinese by blood, assimilated, but never fully into American culture, I float bloodless like a cloud above the nightclubs and liquor for 五人民币into the arms of men and women I danced with, foreigners

you hold me in your ancient arms that has life in the form of exports and swelling population of 外地人and fewer locals I walk through your national galleries and private galleries of 798 wanting wishing for growth in a space overrun with speckled air shining with artificial light of supermalls and nightlife of Sanlitun I taste the oiled jianbing mingled with perspiration of its creator waiting for customers, a merchant old woman who took the bus cramped but always bustling with space for the elderly Your summers are hot enough to fry eggs on the ground with a saucepan like the little boy in the government censored newspaper who looked into the eyes of the readers looking for a future

futures-students taking the 高考registered annually because they are offered one chance per year to take a test which will predict which university, job, career they hold and meet their future husbands and wives

I breathe the summer months I return to your blackened waters and Tai Ji practitioner filled parks to the district my grandparents settled in

I return not fully home,

in the guise of expatriate with Chinese blood in my veins,

American English and imperfect 中文not knowing what is ahead of me but knowing part of what came before me as I walk in the alley of a hutong blocks away from the nearest 10 story office building

oceans away, I dream of returning to a home that ages as I age, changes as I change

 

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