“A Red Eulogy” by Lisa Zou
Homeschooled, Grade 11
Chandler, Arizona, USA
Lisa Zou was born in Kansas, raised in China, and is now a junior at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. She writes speeches for forensics competitions and hopes to continue writing in the future. Her work has been recognized by Mount Mercy University, Library of Congress’s Letters About Literature, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Although she initially struggled with learning English as a second language, she now utilizes it as an art form and a way to express her own philosophy and culture.
From 2015 Young Writers Contest Judge Stephen Kuusisto:
Lisa’s poem is essentially a narrative but smack dab in the middle of the poem comes a moment of lyric imagination, the images so sharp the reader is suddenly breathless:
once more to reach the nirvana
he never believed in, the coffin cycles
past the cabin his uncle built during a better dynasty
with trunks of weeping willows outside the cemetery
where he spent his youth and the cabin’s roof
held my grandfather’s baby teeth, he told me
it was a family tradition —teeth decaying for centuries
on a roof above three generations, my brother
lacks the Chinese to tell
These lines mingle personal history, cultural history and the narrator’s quiet, dignified hope for a generative future. The images are potent: baby teeth in a cabin’s roof, cemetery willows, and beside these, a faltering language—the inheritance of emigration. It’s the poet’s job to tell the stories others cannot. This is powerful poetry!
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