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Writing

In Between

By Joanne H., 826 Valencia

In this poem, a student’s experiences in two countries meld together as she seeks out her true home.

Level

Grades 10–11

Type

Narrative, Poetry

A kaleidoscope of lotus flowers 

blanket a pond under 

an intricately carved stone bridge. 

 

Eating out of bowls instead of plates, 

fragrant ribs in a new Hong Kong crib. 

 

ACs were blowing a cool breeze, 

but this trip was no breeze at all. 

 

Smog like an oven 

constantly smothers buildings 

with an ugly, pungent stench. 

 

As I leaned back in my chair, 

I could feel my sweat-soaked t-shirt 

stick to me like sweet honey boba 

 

Noises everywhere, 

car horns blaring, 

shopkeepers yelling like it’s Black Friday. 

 

Indecipherable “scribbles” 

of the Chinese language 

everywhere 

I turn. 

 

Back in the Bay Area, 

windy breeze blows through 

Plentiful dandelions. 

 

Clear blue skies like cut glass, 

warm sunshine breaks through like a prism. 

 

A rainbow of new languages and people on familiar buses 

from North Beach 

to Castro. 

 

Back in their homeland, 

under the shared umbrella, 

humid, pouring rain led 

my dad to snuggle my mom affectionately. 

 

Something I’d never seen. 

 

While me, fooled 

by McD’s familiar Golden Arches, 

uncomfortable doing something that was simple back home, 

I looked back at my dad with pleading eyes, 

urging him to help me; 

dumbfounded 

the unfamiliar burger was not enjoyable. 

 

Camouflaged by a sea of Chinese people, 

but unable to break their spoken code. 

 

Back at home, 

my mom asks me to read the mail again, 

a page full of unreadable scribbles to her; 

I understand it, but with my limited vocabulary, 

I can’t explain it. 

 

Having to ask what my parents want 

at the Starbucks counter, 

I am often embarrassed to speak in a foreign language; 

I can feel those waiting behind me start to get impatient, 

judging me. 

 

When we’re away, 

we may both miss our homelands, 

but home is wherever we are 

together. 

 

Having dealt with language borders my whole life, 

it isn’t a big struggle nor is it easygoing; more just 

in between. 

About the Author

Joanne H. was born in San Francisco and is sixteen years old. She loves to read books and play sports like tennis and badminton. Her favorite way to pass time is to watch shows. In the future, she’d like to get a good job so that she could live comfortably. She is considering something maybe in the medicine department. She also loves golden retrievers.

From this project

Grades 9–12
Informational, Narrative, Persuasive, Poetry, Social-Emotional Learning

Write Your Way Curriculum: Grades 9-12

by 826 National

Project Summary

A flexible, 4-week unit designed for students in grades 9-12 to "write their way" with authentic purpose. Includes a curriculum guide, calendar, and links to all related 826 Digital resources.

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A powerful poetic piece about the experience of being Black in America.