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A Hundred and Thirty-Two - By: Trisha Tobar

Mother comes clutching, as we huddle and hide our small


His majesty!

In his sweat-soaked and skin-deep

tattered glory,

the king of a hundred and thirty-two!

His calloused carriage

soothes him into slumber, dusty drinkless


Follow suit!

Mother beckons and begs, but it is


Oh, so difficult, in a hundred and thirty-


Where walls fester blisters of shame

and wallow whispers of rightful


panging pain.

Fiendish first-borns, hail from the same


varicose, of more hundred and thirty-


Where writhing under shabby sheets are


that feast on sinner’s flesh, ferment as we


and decompose.

Band with bandits, scutter through eve

and hallow

godless grounds of these hundred and


Perchance, drift into a deep doze.

Colours and cares, worries and woes,

glaze to grey

shrivelled spots.

But rouse to smoldering scents and

parched throats.

The Great Fire of Rome, no, of a hundred

and thirty-two!

Flee from flames, take flight!

Lest quiver and quaver last raspy rattles,

last chokes.

Brace for what the body bears not and

bid adios,

To the King in his fiery grave of a hundred and thirty-two—

Goodbye Your Majesty, Crowned by congregation, the paper king

of my

divided home, measured in the square feet we roam,

a hundred and thirty-two.

Please give a detailed explanation about the meaning and main idea of this poem.:

In Hong Kong, the average size of a sub-divided flat is 132 square feet. To put that into perspective, the size of a parking lot is 130 square feet. I write this poem about the perspective of a child who lives in a subdivided flat with her mother. Her mother comes home from a long day of work, clutching onto a paper king-- money. As the child tries to sleep, she finds it difficult because of noises through thin walls and bites from pests like bed bugs. After drifting to sleep, the two soon wake up startled to find out a fire has started and flee as fast as they can. Sadly, they leave behind the hard-earned money and are forced to start over.

Please explain your writing and thought process regarding this poem.: I tried to write the poem from a childlike point of view, full of imagination and vivid imagery. Nevertheless, since I wanted to portray a tragic event, I tried to maintain a darker tone throughout my poem.

Why did you choose to write this poem?:

I grew up in Hong Kong, a city known as "the Pearl of the Orient". Yet, what lies behind its glamorous cityscape is a dark underbelly. Hong Kong ranks first out of all cities in property prices and 1.6 million of its population lives behind the poverty line. As the average waiting time for public housing is 6.1 years, many are forced to live in squalid conditions-- so-called "subdivided flats". I watched a documentary some time ago about a young girl and her mother living in a sub-divided flat. Just newly immigrating to Hong Kong, they had no choice but to do so. It was heartbreaking hearing about their situation. The safety conditions of the flat were particularly concerning. This documentary still lingers in my mind, so I wrote this poem.

Do you have any tips or anything to share with the youth writers who may be reading this?: Hope that we could continue to mutually inspire one another!

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