top of page

故乡 in retrospection

by Claire He (United States)

May 2023

Write the World Review

Audio: “故乡 in retrospection,” read by Claire He

you’re in the backseat when māmā looks through the rearview mirror
and tells you: i can’t call this place home. the traffic lights reflect from the rain,
blooming into green glares—and in that evening blur, you ask her what it means.
清原, qīngyuán, she replies, is what i still say is home, when someone asks.
the memory of qīngyuán falls as if sand through her fingers; it is a photograph
fading in her mind’s eye, rose-tinted and wrinkling. māmā has breathed
the air of this country into her lungs for twenty-five years, and the smog of new york city
is both familiar and unfamiliar to her but there is a distinct incongruence in the heart
of here, where here cannot be home. sometimes, as she peels mandarins
she muses of what might have happened if she never left her homeland for a
country of glittering promises: now, she says—one hand plucking seeds from the carpel—
that her only regret would be that she never had you. you, the second child;
you, an existence in itself contradictory to the place she calls home.

yet isn’t it strange she can only faintly remember what qīngyuán looks like?
the memory has paled to dried rinds in the consequence of a lifetime’s worth
of them, and she overlays film of her origin with the film of cities across the rim of america
until the image bleeds—you yourself love to pretend you remember your own birthplace
in the ribcage of a city but can’t conjure up the image; (you visit the city again,
years later, and māmā points to the building across the river and says that’s where we lived.
you do not recognize the sight.) distantly, you imagine qīngyuán, too, has changed
in the years since her childhood: frozen in time only in reminiscence. the streams eroded,
sediment running thin under her fingers where the riverbed pared. her house,
a roost absent of reminiscence. listen, the sparrow deserts the nest without return and
this is the truth: her qīngyuán is a place that exists only in her mind, and half a decade
is a blink of an eye to half a century. ask yourself, isn’t it strange to have mourned a place
for longer than its existence? the memory of home as nothing but the name.

Claire He, age 17, is a Chinese-American writer. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the National Poetry Quarterly. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, daydreaming about characters, and examining themes of attachment, nostalgia and luminosity.

#Family          #Home          #Identity          #Memory

Are you a young writer who wants to be published in Write the World Review, or is there a young writer in your life (relative, friend) who should be published in Write the World Review? Learn how here!


3/9/24, 12:43 AM

This was absolutely a good read! 😃

Ushing Mya

11/24/23, 4:42 PM

I'm amazed by your deep perception towards little things of life! Keep glowing dear Taieba.

Fatima Ismail

10/4/23, 10:28 AM

I'll like to see more of your writing

Fatima Ismail

10/4/23, 10:26 AM

Gsk I love it!

dont care

10/3/23, 7:58 PM

womp womp


9/29/23, 2:03 AM


9/29/23, 2:03 AM

Wow..just wow. Ridiculous words I know. I just stumbled across your poem as this is my first time on the website and I landed this masterpiece. As an immigrant myself, I could relate to several aspects of this. Your use of imagery, symbolism, and allusion is outstanding


9/17/23, 8:43 AM

Powerful. Spreading the truth some don't think about, some don't have to worry about. A great and strong piece.

9/16/23, 2:41 AM

9/16/23, 2:41 AM

9/16/23, 2:41 AM

Aisha Yaakub

8/25/23, 10:35 PM

Excellent and amazing

bottom of page