Monthly Archives: March 2021

Amethyst Dream

Amethyst Dream By Haylee Woessner, grade 7, Missouri.

I stare in wonder as the honey bees fly from flower to flower
collecting and spreading pollen.
I scan the field and watch
the bees fly around, as the purple lavender
sways in the wind knocking some bees off course.

But this is OK.
This happens.
This is normal.
Life isn’t perfect after all.

After a long days’s work
the bees retreat home and I begin to drift back to consciousness
but I’ll be back.
One day I’ll visit the swaying lavender
and hear the buzz of the honey bees.
And I’ll feel the cool breeze as I just sit and watch.
One day I will be back
to visit this amethyst dream.

Beneath the Surface

By Riley Ball, age 14, grade 8, Missouri. 
 Maybe I don’t look like a model.
 Maybe I’m taller than a lot of girls.
 Maybe I don’t wear makeup,
 but I am still beautiful.
 I know I acquire pimples
 and blemishes,
 but does that not make me myself?
 When I smile and laugh, 
 do I not look healthy and happy?
 When my eyes sparkle,
 after I laugh,
 does my face not show its natural beauty?
 Why do looks have to matter, anyway?
 Is what’s inside of you not special?
 Are looks more important than kindness?
 Have we dropped so low that we no longer
 care how God looks at us?
 Why care what people think of me?
 This is my life.
 Am I expected to live my life on
 Other’s opinions?
 God created us in his likeness and image.
 If God thinks I’m beautiful inside and out,
 then why care about what our society thinks?
 Before we humans jump to conclusions
 that we are not beautiful,
 maybe we should look in the mirror
 and examine ourselves.
 Because sometimes what we
 find is beautiful—
 we surely need to
 look beneath the surface.
Riley adds: “I wrote this poem to help myself get through the struggles every teenage girl goes through. 
I have always looked at myself in the mirror and never really liked how I looked. This poem was to help 
other struggling young women and men get over some of the hard times in their lives.”

Mrs. Anne’s Closet

By Melissa Harris, Illinois. Illustration by her daughter, Madeline Harris, age 11.

Mrs. Anne’s home was like a museum. Everything I would pick up had a story. “Where did you get this hairbrush from, Mrs. Anne?” I’d ask. 

“That was Big Mom’s, my mother, and it sat on her dresser when I was a girl,” my grandma would say. 

“And now I’m the girl,” I’d add to the story, gliding my finger across the brush that was a shade between blue and gray. 

Sometimes my grandma would let me play dress up in her closet. It was a place for dreaming with your eyes wide open. “Every dress, hat, and handbag has a past, Maddie,” she’d say. “And when the time is right, they’ll be yours to own.” She opened the door to a world of fantasy held in an armoire. 

A striped aquamarine and white dress that looked like it was made for a princess. A black dress as skinny as a water hose hung next to a red kimono, draped over other hidden treasures I couldn’t wait to discover. “I know what you’re eye’n.” Mrs. Anne observed with a smirk. I ran to yank the kimono off of the satin hanger. As Mrs. Anne helped to put it on, the phone rang. She left me to the rest and took the call in the next room. 

The kimono was so oversized that it wrapped around me twice and then some. I could hear what she’d say if she was still in the room, “Maddie, you’re swallowed in memories and love.” I beamed with honor, and recalled the stories she had told me of our heritage. Mrs. Anne was Chinese and African-American. Her mom was from Arkansas, and her dad was from Hong Kong. Somehow their paths crossed in St. Louis where they fell in love. She’d tell me stories of how I descended from two groups of people who were the first to leave genetic footprints on the world, Africa and Asia. “Being the first doesn’t prevent cruelty,” she’d say, “for both countries experienced invasion and mistreatment.” My thoughts of their story swirled in chaos, so fast that my head started to ache, twisting and turning ideas into knots. My string of thoughts collided, and when they crashed, I was no longer in Mrs. Anne’s closet. I was standing at the edge of a mountain that had to be over a thousand feet high.

I was too scared to look down at first, so I slowly stepped back until my heart no longer tried to jump out of my chest. Where was Mrs. Anne? Where was I? I needed to find a trace of something familiar. I got the nerve to look past my immediate surroundings without moving a single limb. Down below was a harbor and fishing boats with the most vivid red sails. Colors blended together like a rainbow, and I couldn’t make out the body of water in front of me. A black and blue butterfly with stripes like the royal dress in Mrs. Anne’s closet fluttered by. I followed. It led to a path that curved around the mountain, probably used like an elevator to take you up or down. I crossed over to an enormous white house in the distance. Maybe someone there could help me get back to my grandma. 

Several arched windows lined the white home. A girl who looked about my age sat under a cotton tree with a book. She didn’t move when I walked towards her, just stared like a frozen sculpture. She had eyes like my grandmother with hair cut straight as a line to her shoulders. I knelt beside her and blurted, “hi.” She hesitated, then exhaled a sigh. I extended my finger towards the house. “Do you live there?” “Lin,” she said pointing to herself. “Maddie,” I responded, imitating her movements. 

Just then, a man in a navy-blue uniform slammed the side door to exit. He didn’t look like Lin. He had red hair and skin as pale as the house he exited. After a few steps, he yelled, barmy bloke! A man in a white apron, the kind a cook wears hurried out, bowing to the soldier’s black boots. The soldier’s tirade was like the howling of a wolf, and though I couldn’t see the details of his face, I was sure it wore a glare. The same as the medals pinned to his uniform from the blazing sun. He backed the cook against the wall. When he was close enough to hover over him with a raised fist, Lin screamed, ting! Her words may have stopped the cook from harm, but the soldier’s anger turned towards us. I didn’t understand their language, but I could infer the cook’s meaning when he yelled, pao! Lin ran towards the trolley path, and I followed. In the distance I could see Lin’s destination; a trolley stopped on the side of the road to pick up passengers headed to the lower peak. Lin ran faster than anyone I had ever seen, and I couldn’t catch up. So, I stopped. I felt a tug at my left ponytail and fell back towards the force. It was the soldier. Before I could think of a plan to escape, my bottom scuffed the ground and my head followed. My thoughts began to spin again, and my eyes opened to a different setting. I was at Mrs. Anne’s. 

“You alright honey? I heard a hard thud, like you fell.” I could see the concern in Mrs. Anne’s eyes because she saw the fear in mine. I was still shaken up from the soldier and the distant land with people who seemed familiar to me.

“Did your daddy have a sister? I asked, smearing tears across my face.

“He did. Her name was Lin.” 

“I think I met her in my dream.” 

“I’m sure you did,” Mrs. Anne laughed. I didn’t care if she believed me. I was just grateful to be in her arms, swallowed in memories and love. 


Blue Tiger Butterfly/Tirumala limniace is found in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Its wings are black with blue markings.

Pao: (頓契, 獵契, 텝, 쒔檀, 굴텝, 텝꼍) run

Tíng: (界) stop

Victoria Peak: A hill on the western half of Hong Kong Island that rises 1,810 feet. 

Victoria Harbor: A natural landform harbor separating Hong Kong Island in the south from the Kowloon Peninsula to the north.

By Melissa Harris, multiracial (Chinese, Irish, and African American), English teacher, Illinois.

Illustration by Melissa’s daughter, Madeline Harris, a budding artist, age 11.


A Gift

By Chad Glang, Ph.D., Colorado.

Stained Glass Art by Chad Glang, Colorado.

Someone asked me recently when was it that I first awakened to the spiritual side of life.
I have a vivid memory from my time as a student in France. I was 19, and several of us were invited to be companions to kids at a nearby orphanage. In several visits, I connected with a boy of eight. In our final afternoon together he went to his bureau—container of all his worldly possessions. 

He brought out a rare, treasured postage stamp and handed it to me: Un cadeau pour toi, “A gift for you.” 

I was so touched. I pulled out my wallet and found a memento I prized. “Great! We’ll trade,” I said.

His was crestfallen, his eyes filled with tears. “No, not a trade… it’s a gift. I want to give it to you.” I stopped breathing. Oh… I had denied him the experience of giving. In my discomfort with the vulnerability of being the receiver, I’d reflexively moved to equalize the relationship. Unaware, acting out of my own feelings, I’d walked on his feelings… and his dignity. 

More than fifty years later, I am still brought to stillness by this memory. I denied the gift of the stamp; I could not deny the gift of the learning. There’s something more going on here… it’s not just about what my limited, if well intentioned, ego can comprehend.

I didn’t have words for that experience at the time, which was part of its power. Now, the Sanskrit greeting Namaste comes to mind: “The place in me of love and truth and light greets the place in you of love and truth and light.” 

At a given moment, we may be wearing particular hats, like server and served, but we are all in this together…and deep down we are all the same.

—Chad Glang, Ph.D., lives a retired life in Colorado. He works with stained glass, hikes, bikes and camps. He practiced counseling psychology for 40 years. 

When my Grandfather Holds my Grandmother

 When my grandfather holds my grandmother,
 Saigon still smolders on the ashes of April.
 When my grandfather holds my grandmother,
 he lowers his head, the way the hunted have always
 bent over their own reflection to drink.
 When my grandfather holds my grandmother,
 his schoolboy arms trace etymologies over her waist,
 how the Vietnamese word for “remember” and “miss” are the same
 while his nose relearns a scent, he relearns a year—
 as if to walk through the kitchen window you’d still see
 paper milk-flowers bursting into flames while
 the stars gape like the sky’s bullet wounds;
 and where my grandfather holds her,
 smoke soldiers, also, dig ghost claws in her wrist,
 chanting bạn có nhớ tôi không?
 My grandfather holds my grandmother 
 in a history never ended, as if somewhere 
 between his hands, the city smolders on. 

By Samantha Liu, 16, New Jersey. She adds: “As for myself, I am a fifteen year-old aspiring writer in New Jersey. I’ve been trying so hard to relearn and revisit my Asian heritage recently – part Mandarin Chinese, part Vietnamese. My grandparents from both sides are children of war, of Mao, of Tet. The bloodshed of the twentieth century, much of it perpetuated by America itself, is etched in my family history. Much of it is cruel. Much of it is turbulent. Much of it inspires bouts of PTSD while I, nine and unknowing, huddle in a corner. But some of it, as I tried to write in “When my grandfather holds my grandmother,” is light. It is how my grandfather and grandmother fell in love, in the ardent and all-consuming way of people who might not see another day. To me, this is the legacy of Vietnam—not politicking, not ideology, but humanity. I have inherited a war, and I will continue to unravel it.”

Mother’s Daughter

“The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live.”  –Confucius

If Confucius was right, then my mother lived delicately, treading a tightrope as thin as the slices of her twice cooked pork.

When she ate her first American hamburger, she had complained.“Ai ya. Why is the meat so big? With a hulking piece of meat like this no wonder they all in debt. Americans cannot save.”

She told me this while I minced the pork for our dumplings and she rolled the dough. “Thinner, Jian Yang. We are not the barbaric Americans.”

She didn’t intend it, but with those words, the knife I held slashed across my life like the cuts across the pork. In that moment I told myself I am not a barbaric American because I am not an American. My narrative became a relic of my mother’s, two sides of the same page, her side’s ink still impressed on mine.

For five years after that, I remained scared of knives, and my mother cut my meat for me.

“You are what you eat.” –American proverb

“Is that dog food?”

“It can’t be, because Ling Ling doesn’t feed dogs, she eats them.”

That day I went home in tears and asked my mother to pack me a sandwich. I showed her what the pale kids kept inside of their princess lunchboxes—spongy white bread around ham and cheese, a cereal bar, an apple.

“Ah yes, I make for you.”

The next day I found a pork bun in my backpack. I held the baked dough and took a bite. I tasted pork marinated with soy sauce and chives. As I chewed, I hoped the hujiaobing could pass off as a hamburger.

“Ling Ling is eating dog food again.”

“Does that make Ling Ling a dog?”

The day after, there was steamed bun inside my backpack with barbecue pork and black pepper. I looked once at the pearl knot before throwing out the chasiubao. I didn’t eat my lunch the day after, or the day after.

If you are what you eat, I thought, I don’t want to eat Chinese anymore.

And so my transformation began. Everyday at lunch I’d throw out the delicacy my mother had packed. Everyday at dinner I’d pick at my rice while staring at the woman across from me, pockmarked yellow on her cheeks and creased valleys in her forehead. My greatest wish was not to turn out like her.

I thought I had actualized my wish when my skin began to turn translucent from skipping meals. I thought I was becoming white. I started eating nothing altogether, and I became nothing.

Once my mother scolded me for not eating. “Jian Yang, you look like ghost. Eat your noodles and you become yellow again.”

I can’t remember most of what happened next. I remember my tongue, poised like a knife, uttering some ugly sounding words I barely understood. I remember wanting to make her bleed with my words, one cut for each bite of dog food I had endured. I remember pretending she could seep out red on a cutting board, bleeding until we were left colorless.“Chink.”

“He who takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.” —Chinese adage

My mother doesn’t cook anymore. Instead, she lays on a red-blanketed bamboo mat in a room brimming verdant. On her desk, an incongruous collection of terracotta cups, holding qi-rectifying rhubarb and shen-calming wolfberry.

The doctor said her condition is too fragile to eat. Strong flavors could disturb her gut, and I should instead blend basic nutrients for her to drink. I promptly replied that he was a fool.

The first time I cooked for her, she was coming back from the hospital. When I saw her, face of mountains reduced to ash, I dropped the plate. She asked what was wrong with me. I told her that my greatest wish was never to turn out like her. She told me that she had shared the same wish.

“You must turn out better than me,” she said.

We ate my meal, pork buns ribbed in ginger, in silence.

“Fashion is in Europe, living is in America, but eating is in China.”  —Chinese adage

I saw this scribbled against a dusty window to a grocery store in Chinatown. I don’t know why they say living is in America, because this country killed my mother. She died four months after the pork bun meal—inevitable, the doctor said. The nail salon she labored nine hours a day at had used illegally toxic polishes for years. While she scrubbed counters and coughed chemicals, her liver simply gave out. It was a miracle that she lived as long as she did.

My mother was a failure of an immigrant in most aspects. She stood at the Angel Island bridge seeking freedom, yet each day she beat herself an ocean back, until her vision became a mirage on the horizon. By imagining walls of white supremacy and shadowy businessmen, she trapped herself in a prison of her own making. She never found freedom because she never made it off that bridge.

I live in America, though. For lunch I go out for drinks with my roommates. We catch up on Grey’s Anatomy and someone invites me to a frat party later, which I only pretend to consider.

For dinner I stay home and cut my own meat, a piece for Brooklyn, a piece for Chinatown, for eating, for living. One piece for Jane Young, amateur journalist and cup-pong champion, one piece for Jian Yang, aspiring princess haunted by the paleness of memory. They are the decussations of a third-person America, carved apart by my mother into island pieces long before I realized that action had shattered me.

And so, I reassemble. I take the pieces, toss in a million chili peppers, and sauté in an ocean of soy sauce until they become one and the same.

By Samantha Liu, 16, New Jersey. She adds:“Mother’s Daughter” parallels my two clashing heritages. Having been raised speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese, I was expected to fulfill all the Confucius-esque dreams of my Chinese immigrant mother, whom I ended up resenting more than anything. Through the symbol of food, my story explores my struggle to reconcile these beliefs as I learned to define myself—as Chinese-American, as heterogeneous as food itself.”