Xiting (Brian) Liao / Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT

English Teacher: Mrs. Jenna Brousseau

A special thanks to Mei, James and Si for inspiration, Mrs. Brousseau for the teachings and skills needed for me to push myself, and the unconditional support of my friends.

Poem was inspired by fear of losing home.

A cause I support is the Gorongosa Restoration Project.

Fighting for Ghost Cats and Cicada Songs


We’d protect what we know of the world,
And what we know is what they show to us as kids
Shown what the world looks like, we’ve been, in an age of photographs.
Nature’s been photographed many times as a paradigm
Of scenes and lands seemingly beyond our reach.
We can see the serenity through photos with “our own eyes”,
But lifeless life stares right back
As a reminder of frozen tranquility we can never wish to recreate and maintain
Unless we sandblast away our calamitous marring of the Earth,
See our world first-hand to paint over with the harmony of man and Earth anew
And see what we’ve been fighting all these battles for.

If only we all could preserve our old desire for preservation,
With the same fervor and intensity.
Or work harder to try and keep what’s ours. Collectively so.
It’s not ours, as in for humans,
We owe it to the things that make this oasis in space
Run like intricate clockwork,
ticking and tocking in sync with all the spinning and rocking.
Owe it to redwoods towering over the tallest man
Owe it to the plankton who provide life through their sacrifices to the world
Owe it to the savannahs of Africa, who fascinates us with its yet untouched beauty
Owe it to the lone snow leopard, prowling in a cold world we all share together
Owe it to the planet we stand upon, the foundation to all beginnings
Owe it to the plants and animals who's grip is slipping
On the control of what their world is coming to.

I return to my country of origin every summer
To escape the bland, mechanical noises and scenes the city has to offer.
Surround myself instead with the paradox only China can show me clearly.
The drone of frogs and crickets, harmonious as the balance of a spinning top.
Ghostly felines of the wild, shifty as the shadows of scattered bamboo leaves.
Fields of grass and ponds quiver, and bamboo forests sway with the breeze
Dancing, ever-so-elegantly with the ebb and flow of Earth’s cool breath.
Where land and ocean meet, a sigh of relief resonates in the crashing of waves.
Waves that advance with our world’s living, rhythmic heartbeat.

But I must not forget this is a paradox,
And I’m reminded by the drab grey city just past the horizon.
So when I look up, searching for my blue, childhood sky
And see the lifeless void of soot crawl in closer each year,
Which is contrary to what I saw in my bamboo refuge behind my back
Away from the American city,
I can only close my eyes and wish the impending was not the case,
And let the still-clean wind sprint by my unsettled thoughts.

Dark clouds of Chinese industry crawl, claw, lunge, closer and closer into the blue.
And I realize every time I return to these little mountain ponds
In my breaks from the American city
That someday soon, the sea of clouds and cobalt will be swallowed by black.
Realization stabs and gashes at my fragile heart, and the truth becomes clear;
I really have not escaped, as the collapse of my haven is in sight
And in the end, my sanctuary is not permanently serene,
Like those photographs most people often see.

My world in my mind was shaped by me being there personally
Not by what I saw in a picture.
My escape from the pallid city cats and sickly trees
That lined the alleys back in town
Is being swept away by black rolling clouds and sheets of soot snow
That all come floating down
And like a bird who's nest has been ripped to shreds,
I would no longer recognize that tarnished new world as my home.

They don’t see my paradise like I do.
The warm embrace of this land has long been absolved of value to them.
Debris and ash and smoke come closer and closer to my natural bubble of safety,
And every year it creeps closer yet.
As black ash and remnants of the satisfaction of greed descent towards the ground
Dancing, but to the steps of the Dance Macabre,
Pangs of guilt, regret and sadness fall upon me as the ashen flakes do as well.
For me, I just want to be far from it all.
For all these steps we take, all the scars we make on our little blue marble,
They are leading us further away from what our world once was.

My “home away from mechanical home”,
A land that nullifies the lackluster city view.
The land of frogs and crickets and the little pond snakes
Of foxes whose elegance and sure footing are cause for envy
Of forests where cicada songs rattle clear and thunderous
Of cherry blossoms, pink and delicate; painting the world in its color, just for a while
Of dragonflies of stunning shades and hues, living up to their legendary namesake
Of my wild elusive feline companions who visit the ponds as often as I do
Of nice little flowers, doing their best to survive in sync with the seasons. . .
May be no more sooner than I’m willing to let it go.

We must not say “Lift this burden, take it off on me”
Because we’ve caused this burden of ours.
If we stop and think and try a little more,
Take the ultimate responsibility,
And try to reverse the scars,
Our burden will be no more.

Fields of stumps and bleached seas.
Silent hills and deserted dead hollows.
Blackened air that's hard to breath in.
The future seems bleak like the landscapes left over
Due to the lack of action, and lack of caring.
These are the scars. The marring. And we might just lose all hope. . .

They say you can’t stop the storm if you’ve fallen all the way
But the thought of “Home” carries soldiers through battles.
So why can’t "Home" be our banner when we charge into this war on our burden?
A war to protect the only marble we can call “Home”?

The beautiful things about nature is that sometimes you can find its appeal
By reading between the lines.
Interpret it differently
Enjoyable it is, with what you get out of the remainder.
In unconventionally found places,
Your new perspective will show you more than meets the eye.
What’s to say we can’t all find something to protect?
Something to be a gem in our eyes?
A bamboo forest we could sit in for ages?
Something we each can call a “Home”?

I let night fall upon me and this little hideaway
Known to no one but me.
Cicadas cryptic calls carry through the air
Sleepers and Rice Fish shift under moon lit waters
A Leopard Cat joins me, eyes a-glowing like ghostly lanterns
Bamboo culms clatter noisily, the hollow noise echoing across the ponds
My dog perched on an outcrop, breathing in the tranquility with me
And I know now,
This is not a desperate reward, a hopeless fight
A lost cause.

The day we can step away from viewing
Our world as a source of things that it can bring,
And change that view indefinitely,
Will be the day that those inauspicious black shrouds of industry recede.
They say we must "tame the fire or suffer to live in the ashes"
So when are we going to realize that the ashes are imminent?
When we do, that fateful day
Will be the day we'll save this place, my sanctum,
And places like this, worldwide.
If I can open eyes and fight for our “Home” with writing,
Then I’ve lived a little life, and fought a battle truly worth fighting for.

That night, the night in the woods
That night where invisible fish broke the smooth waters' surface
In hopes of seeing outside their small aquatic world
The day where cicada songs rang true with the rise of Helios' chariot
The night where a ghostly cat and a obedient dog joined me by the tarn
That day when foxes phased in and out of sight
The evenings where cherry blossoms fell with the dropping sun
The mornings where those same little flowers reflected golden rays off their dewdrops
A day in the gearbox of this world's clockwork, just a small part of its works
A night as a single human soul in a single isolated island
All times that I wished would never end.

They showed me a photograph of the world when I was young. But I grew up breathing in the wild before I took in the artificial sights. I'm not rich, and struggle to make ends meet. But I don't want to live in a world where I can't escape that reality, where I can't return to my hideaway. Winston Churchill, leader of England during WW2, had said, "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches. . ., we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." And if I just remember his words and what I knew as a kid, the raw and untouched natural world I surrounded myself with, I will remember what it is that I want to protect. What it is that I will fight for. My refuge. My small isolated sanctum of green and water. My "Island" called Home.