When English Hurt
by Meg Eden
We talk beside the Korean grocery store,Second Place Winner
speaking with those words that hurt
from that language called English –
the one we never really wanted to learn
but had to because that's what everyone expects
from smart girls.
When no one was looking,
we wrote Han characters on the sides of our notebooks.
It felt good to write so secretly –
like those Nu Shu women long ago
that wrote on fans.
Every day after school
we went into the Korean grocers,
and bought asian candy.
They smiled and nodded and
still gave us good prices on candy.
We said "hello" to them and
they bowed their heads and smiled,
but we knew they didn't understand.
Yet there was a silent bond between us,
probably because we were both immigrants
and it didn't really matter any more if they
were Korean and we were Chinese.
We both needed candy to
take away the bitter flavor of English.
And when it got dark
we would lie on the grass,
eating our candy and watching the stars.
They were the same stars in Beijing.
We looked for the zodiac
or pretended we could see Han characters in the sky.
There were some nights we cried
because everything hurt so much
yet somehow we always got back up
and continued going.
Maybe it was because the candy was so sweet
we could smile, get up, go home,
remember there was something good about English,
"The Land of Opportunity"
and that there would be a time we'd look back
and laugh at how bad everything once was.
We just had to keep on going to see that time.