Here is Us | Teen Ink

Here is Us

January 9, 2022
By Elenazhang1010 SILVER, Wallingford, Connecticut
Elenazhang1010 SILVER, Wallingford, Connecticut
6 articles 6 photos 0 comments

Here is the apartment I used to live in,

it’s scuffed edges and peeling wallpaper,

it’s light bulbs we never fixed,

the books on the shelf we never flipped through.


Here is where Uncle Cheng lifted and flung me above his shoulders,

where I felt fearless and weightless suspended in midair.

Here is grandma's dimly lit tv room,

where I watched hours of a war documentary unaware of the heaviness it carried.

Here is where I felt the innocence of Auntie Wen’s children’s,

inspired by their laughter and the affection in their mother’s eyes.  

Here is where I saw my mother in a skin-tight navy dress,

in her favorite scent wild bluebell. 

Here is where grandpa snuck pistachio packets in my pockets,

Nuts of happiness,

That is the meaning of pistachio in Chinese. 


Here is where I first pressed on the keys of a piano,

conflict, compromise is the beauty of it all.

Here is where I ran as the rain poured, laughing until it hurt,

on the street that reflects the sky after storms so flawlessly. 

Here are the constellations I traced on sleepless nights, 

lying with peace on the rooftop.

Here is the backyard where my aunt taught me how to ride a bike,

when she let go of me when I wasn’t ready,

skidding the edges of the pavement.

Here is the subway that is never punctual, 

its tired passengers with sore knees telling stories of mundane, extraordinary lives,

in this labyrinth of concrete and gasoline.


Here is where I took a sip of dad’s baijiu the first time, 

it burned going down.

Here is where I ran into the word “f-*-*-k,”

half concealed on a doodled wall,

its unfamiliar syllables ran rough in my mouth.

Here is where I thought of being “not good enough”

I didn’t know I had lost something important by then.

Here is where I told my sister I hated her without meaning it,

where she understood what I tried to say when I failed to,

and taught me the power in yielding, in silence, in forgiving.


Here is where I mourned over the diseased,

held grandma's thin hand by her sickbed whispering “It’s all fine”

Here is where I wish I had cherished volatility of time,

where I watch people exit my life just as I watch them enter.

Love is company, Love is acceptance of letting go.

Here where I know I have to leave thousands of miles away and hours apart,

knowing someone has to unwillingly let go too. 


Here is where I stood crowded and bustling— Beijing,

its businessmen, drivers, agnostics, insomniacs,

believers and cynics,

lovers and unloved.


A city of travelers and local strangers bound together by unshared pasts.

Here are unspoken apologies, intangible things, and extraordinary human beings.

Here I am, I am here.


The author's comments:

I vividly remember the time when I blanked on an English "free write" assignment in my Sophomore year winter term. Being accustomed to writing with prompts and rules, my creativity was significantly limited because all my work was based on topics studied in class. I had little time to write about what mattered most to me. I struggled, more than I thought, to come up with an idea about literally anything. Anything. I didn't know where to start! One time, I came across Philip Larkin's poem "Here", which inspired me to reflect on my childhood and its lasting impact on my life. Through this assignment, I had the chance to write about my experiences in Beijing, where I spent most of my life time. 

My sister and I were raised by a single mother, but in a rather large household consister my uncle, aunts and grandparents. Being the youngest member in my two-story apartment, I received an unconditional amount of love, granting me an unique and wholesome journey of growth. In my poem, I commemorate the magnificent memories that I shared with each family member. Along with the good memories, I also included parts of my childhood that carried more heaviness and pain. I have watched many people enter and leave my life. Two years ago, my grandma suffered from a stroke that paralysed the ride side of her body and hindered speech and memory. It was a painful process for the family to undergo, especially for me as I was very close to her. About a few months ago her illness deteriorated, poking a bigger hole in my heart with uncertainty. Leaving for boarding school in a foreign country was another obstacle besides my grandmother being ill. I knew I had to leave my loved ones and begin the path of being independent. Now as I reflect on my time in Beijing, I am more than grateful for all the best and worst experiences as they have taught me how to cherish, love hard and let go. This poem honors the people, city, love and pain that means the most to me.  


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