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Pockets of City

by Tiffany Leong (United States)

July 2021

Write the World Review

Audio: "Pockets of City," read by Tiffany Leong

I knew Chinatown best on Saturdays,
the November kind:
char siu sizzling in cold smoke and
snot-nosed kids rocking back-forth-back on Kumon stools and
the little old ladies
running errands and the rumor mill
across town all the same, with their
taut sour mouths and floral padded-jackets, their
smiling plastic bags rustling between—
whispering, withering,
the faint trickles of Guangdong sneaking behind
our red ears as if still searching, wandering,
waiting to call this city home.

We spent Sundays uptown, Asia on Argyle,
the day of the week Mom was most unbearable:
where sweltering July afternoons came
scorching car seats under leather-stuck thighs, came
pressing foreheads against the sweet cool glass of lobster tanks, came
dense heat rolling in and under our sun-beat arms at Co Tao’s barbershop,
arms beat, groceries hanging from our elbows—
Mom dragging us across the summer-baked asphalt
to the jewelers to the butchers to the cleaners
and back to Lakeshore, where
the silver edges of scrapers winked from above
and seagulls cried into our rolled-down windows, where
we closed our eyes and tasted the grappling wind, where
Mom’s car croaked a guitar-strummed Latin-drummed song as
she waited to call this city home.

Sterling Heights always greeted us barren,
suburban silence that stretched down flat streets,
another season of li xi tucked in Christmas cards.
And in my grandfather's garage, with a Marlboro dangling from
his wise, whiskered mouth,
I saw a frozen wasteland behind his thick rims: that
his mind was a sea away, craving the monsoon over Michigan snow, that
it was a white man’s war he won just to lose in their corporate jungle, that
he couldn’t order a coffee at McDonald’s with his En-grish, that
his grandkids never understood a lick of his stories, that
it was alright, that it was the side effect of a blessing,
because he had only ever come here
for us to call this country home.

Tiffany Leong, age 18, is a senior at Jones College Prep in Chicago, IL. Her hobbies consist of impulse online shopping, procrastinating, and reading screenplays. The latest inspiration of hers is Aaron Sorkin’s "The Social Network."

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Tom Lofft

9/24/22, 2:13 PM

Was this inspired by flights over Iceland?


9/24/22, 10:04 AM

Amazing. I love it.


9/23/22, 7:34 AM

This is just so good!!!! "The air has been poisoned' I love how you describe things! Congrats :))


9/23/22, 7:32 AM

Love the message! The way you prompt the readers to rethink over 'is anything free' is so effective and the ending is...gorgeous.


9/23/22, 7:30 AM

Gosh, Antara...this is really beautiful! I love your use of language, and the anecdotes were so effective!! Congrats so much :))

Nidhi Kamalapurkar

9/22/22, 9:30 PM

I love it! Especially the part where you say if humans can control the world, they can control themselves too!
Keep up the brilliant writing!


9/22/22, 5:22 PM

Poignant and so beautifully written!


9/22/22, 5:19 PM

I love the flow, this is gorgeously written! Great piece!


9/22/22, 5:17 PM

Life really is all about the little things and you wrote about them in a beautiful way!


9/22/22, 5:16 PM

This is a lovely piece, Keren-Happuch! It provokes such a magical and dreamy feeling.


9/19/22, 5:47 PM

Oh my god, the part about changing the mindset given the pre-existing beliefs drilled in by those around us... Even we often hesitate to have these conversations at times amongst friends as this topic is seldom more than a subject of twss jokes. You put it into words brilliantly!

Avisha M

9/17/22, 6:46 PM

this was thought-provoking! I particularly enjoyed how you connected existentialism to the topic. it provides a different perspective.