Writing Portfolio- Karen Zheng Age 17, Grade 12, Stuyvesant High School, Gold Key

I am from the gray heavens of Lima and the red dirt of Independencia
a part of a whole trying to fill holes-but what do I know?
apples lipsticked red from constant nourishment,
and mountains purple in majesty, and all their unwant
I am from forty minutes a day
in Spanish class flipping through Exprésate,
from the accent on that e worth a fourth of a point
on a test-is this how they measure how we do our best?
I am from the self-dubbed Drama Llamas (we go crazy for llamas),
from all the Inca Kola, cerviche y causa our soles buy and our tongues roll over like r’s,
from empty suitcases of substance and heart
when our sojourn is over but our colors don’t part

I’m from fingers linked with those of orphans,
from Spanglish conversations and Prince Royce’s No lloraré,
No lloraré, oh I won’t, shed a tear
I’m from eyes lined thick to cover weariness and loneliness, eyes swept clean
after Raúl points to them, slanted, and everyone laughs
(you’re slanted)
I’m from the late night whispers and tears Natalie and I share in our Peruvian-Asian American
(because that happened to me too)
I’m from children’s shouts of Mamá, Mamá!, and their panicked chasing after our van
when we leave, godforsaken

I’m from the mothers of Independencia,
who bind cloth to their backs to carry their babies, feed all six of them with 100 USD a month,
and curse their runaway partners as fervently as they worship God
I’m from the abandoned, crumbling houses kids’ dirty, rough hands wander in,
from the puddles on soccer fields they beat us on every time,
and the holes in the nets, and the holes in the clothes
I’m from great wishes-a doctor! a policeman! the president!-and
the gangs that surround them
I’m from a huge concrete wall in a place where a dozen homes can be destroyed by ground shifting
from six times the quantity of twelve wheelbarrows of dirt, ninety shovels of rocks,
and five bags of concrete mix, plus water plus manpower plus manpower plus manpower plus

I am from handfuls of sand seeping past my hands,
from a warm fire in a cold desert night,
from endless needles of hope piercing the black sky,
from I wish I may’s, and I wish I might’s
I am from years of kneeling at the foot of my bed
to greet the same stars
I am from years of newspapers read on the subway
about the same wars
I am from crunching Central and Van Cortlandt Park gravel beneath running shoes
and gushing New York City summer rain beneath dancing feet
But I will always be from footprints winding along, under red dirt and above gray heavens

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