“Lotus Flower” by Isabel Hernandez-Cheng2 min read

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Shanghai Alley, City of Vancouver Archives


Filthy water
Squalid streets
From filth they bloom
Morning dew delicately sat on a petal Industrious tears fill the eyes of Chinese pioneers

An arduous odyssey
A one man’s journey
In hope for promised gold and glory
His family patiently waits for an indefinite date
Sorrowful evenings

Two lonely hearts stare at the solitary moon

For a privileged price
He can hope for half a humble life

Thousands of miles away from home
In this Chinatown
He walks down Shanghai alley
And sees familiar faces
He hears tense Chinese opera
A discovered sense of calm in his home dialect

In a society where he is not welcomed
Chinatown embraces and empowers
He can find a clan amidst the rundown streets
Where in this foreign land he finally belongs

In a society where he is not welcomed
Chinatown embraces and empowers
He can find a clan amidst the rundown streets
Where in this foreign land he finally belongs

Bright red lanterns decorate the streets
Enticing neon welcome signs flash as he walks by
A steamy smell arises from a bamboo basket of chashu bao
Shop owner’s wife beckons him in

The muddy pond in which lotus flowers bloom Chinatown, the muddy pond in which he flourishes
He came as a seed and planted himself in this neighbourhood Unassuming and taken advantage of
Chinatown is where he finds his worth
He will give and give before he fights for his rights Sacrificed sons lost to war
Fighting for a country that they need to prove their worth to

The alluring lotus flower
Like the Chinese immigrants
Who found their home in Chinatown
Came from a pond of struggles and inequalities
Yet bloomed so beautifully and strong


Isabel Hernandez-Cheng is currently attending Grade 9 at York House School. She loves all the different subjects she gets to study at school; she finds social studies and English to be her favourite with everything in between reading classical literature, learning history, and discussing current events. She is mesmerised by classic poems, fascinated by the macabre of Edgar Allan Poe and the observations of Emily Dickinson, with her favourite poem being “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe. Isabel is an immersed classical music student who plays a variety of instruments such as the piano and violin and flute in her school band. Fencing is her newest passion, which she hopes to explore to her fullest potential. She also enjoys playing chess.

Isabel Hernandez-Cheng’s poem is one of the shortlisted poems for the City Poems Contest for Youth. Watch Isabel Hernandez-Cheng’s performance and reading of her poetry here.

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