Poetry & Writing

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The Sunset, 1973

Bitter cold fog seeping in during the mornings,

people jogging with their running jackets on

in Summer, Chinese restaurants

and hardware stores, block after

block of the same stucco

cottage-cheesy houses in timid colors.

My mother cried when she first saw

our new house on Santiago,

a white box with pink-trimmed windows

on a flat street, nothing at all

like the Victorian we rented.

She told my father she wanted

to take my sister back

and rent a one-room efficiency,

at least Chinatown was warm,

and everyone spoke our language.

We were one of the first families,

sprung from Chinatown—the smelly fish

and crabs, the sidewalk snot and urine,

the rotting garbage—to move into this desolate

neighborhood of fog and stucco.

Here, my mother started sewing

for a sweatshop

that delivered piece work, collected

leftover fabric to make our clothes.

At Parkside Elementary, 25th and Ulloa,

my sister and I wore matching coats

and bellbottom jeans with elastic waistbands.

The friendly long-sleeved mothers of Parkside

used to point at us, laughing

through their noses,

How adorable. Chinese girls. Twins.

In school, their children beat us up,

dragged my sister into the bathroom

and took her clothes off in a stall

to see what a Chinese butt looked like.

                                   Looking back,

I don’t know why my father moved us

to the Sunset in 1973. He must have thought

we were very strong people, making our home

out in the fog.

                                                                        Priscilla Lee

Our house in the Sunset in 1973. That's me running home.

Me in the second grade

My sister, Sherilyn in the first grade