New poem in The Cortland Review: “Growing Up With Beijing”

Really excited and honored to see my poem “Growing Up With Beijing” in the latest issue of The Cortland Review. Read it here.

The poem was inspired by Beijing’s now-sealed underground tunnels, which were built during the Mao era at the height of Sino-Soviet tensions — by people such as my uncle, who I interviewed for this story.

The tunnels, constructed partly with Beijing’s old city walls, were nuclear fallout shelters that fortunately proved unnecessary. But it was an interesting time, and would only get more so in the years to come, through the Cultural Revolution, reform and opening up, etc., to present day. The Chinese of that generation, I am reminded again and again, have lived multiple lives, along with the city itself.

Growing Up With Beijing — an excerpt:

When we realized
God — Mao — could die,
we performed duty
and ablution, looked
at our city permanently
and did not cry.
Our childhoods would
live on in street signs,
our trees memorialized
by restaurants,
the old city gates,
arrogant and noble,
now traffic circles
and overpasses.
First let a few grow rich,
the new leader said,
and then let the trees
and memories of persimmons
and birds under the eaves
return (he implied),
those days before envy.
But always forward,
no questions of cost,
what desecration can buy,
how much our identities
were written on old walls.


Read the full poem here, or hop over to my poetry page for more published work.