A Father's Nightmare

By Victor Xia
11th grade, Lakeside School, WA

With lines from "China: Black Market Babies" by Sushma Subramanian and Deborah Jian Lee, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

She was stolen from me.
              Such a small thing,
it seemed. Petty, simple extortion.
She wasn't a pretty baby, always had
  her nose scrunched up,
always throwing a fuss.

Always throwing a fuss,
     but not when they took her.
     My baby girl, I think of
   what I could've done
if you had called louder,
for Ba Ba,
       shook the chickens from their
roosts, told me what your grandparents
     couldn't tell me until it was too late.

They could've told me but it was too late,
   because the phone connection
doesn't always work, and
     our house in the village is so old
the walls and ceiling are cracked.
We used to worry the bricks might
    fall when the wind blew hard. That
    the rafters might shake
    with your cries.

Without your cries,
here in Shenzhen, our days were long and hard,
    and we lived in a small dorm. The morning
    the government took you I looked east,
       to your smile, waxing
    in the filmy heat. What I would
    have given, then, to know;
    the secret folded
       in a breath of wind on my cheek.

       She was already stolen from me,
    and I didn't know.

Victor Xia
Victor Xia

Victor Xia is a rising senior at Lakeside School in Seattle, WA. As a second-generation Chinese-American, he's an active advocate for artistic creation and representation in his own community. A youth poet ambassador for his city as well as a dedicated filmmaker, Victor believes in pushing the limits of traditional genres of storytelling while engaging with urgent, new narratives. He's grateful for this opportunity to help the Pulitzer Center highlight underreported issues, and is still grappling with the responsibility of a piece like this one.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest