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Letter to My Grandparents

Ellen Zhang 

I do not know your way of life, of waiting once a year 

for meat, having a hunger in your belly, which 

brought us here. Mother says, I have your eyes. 


When did you realize? For me, it was after graduation,  

Ivy League, medical degree. What seems like the way up  

is really no way down. America is a country built  

on paradoxes. Streets paved with anything but gold.  


Instead, Michigan pothole grinds into my mother’s  

back. In the Lyft, the radio comes on. I marinate in  

memories, so malleable. Transported home to a time  


I was feverish. Hospital bills more frightening 

than sick child. In the car, we drove for miles going 

nowhere. Back then, I can’t remember it now,  

but I must have dreamed in lulling Mandarin. 


Through my lens, I wonder if you ever questioned 

your choice of anchorage. Which, if any, of your  

promises survived immigration? Is it me/enough?  

Ellen Zhang is a student at Harvard Medical School who has studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham, poet Rosebud Ben-Oni, and poet Josh Bell. She has been recognized by the 2022 DeBakey Poetry Prize, 2022 Dibase Poetry Contest, and as a 2019 National Student Poet Semifinalist. Her works appear or are forthcoming in Rappahannock Review, Southward Literary Journal, Hekton International, and elsewhere.

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