Kiyomi Kishaba is a junior with a double major in English and Communication, and a minor in Hispanic Studies. She also edits for the Mast newspaper and writes for the athletics department. When she’s not writing and editing, she’s probably swimming, dancing, or eating chocolate.
The Poet at Seventeen
I drove to fall swim practice down a one-lane road. I’d switch between throwback radio stations, windows down, and watch the sunrise paint my fortune in the sky with wind whistling through my tired hair, and itch. My school days tumbled on and on, spent daydreaming of the girl I was and the woman I would become. Clad in thrifted dresses or form-fitting jeans, passing periods were my red carpet premiere and I’d walk, no, strut by boys I pretended not to see looking, and white girls whose whole closet was lulu lemon leggings, and roll my eyes knowing none of this mattered because, after June, we’d be scattered across the country, with new boys and new white girls watching us walk to class. But our country was divided. I cried myself to sleep the November night our country turned red instead of blue, anger boiling at the back of my throat. Months later my mom and I marched alongside women to protect our bodies and the bodies of others. During spring practice young bodies remembered laughter and sunlight bounced off the water, blinding us from looking too far ahead. Tanned skin, dry from chlorine, stretched over lean muscles trained to pull through water, find rhythm in the still air, and belt lines of fire. Tired, yes, but young and growing and itching to be more than we were. We’d clamber out of the pool, sunset glistening orange and pink on our wet bodies, and shiver as the breeze tickled under our dripping hair. Towels dried the sunset off our backs before it could stain our skin, and we all too quickly scattered to the warmth of our cars. I wish I could say I cherished every last sunset, but I turned my back and drove away down my one-lane road.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Necklace
1 You used to embrace the grass tickling your back while you gazed at the stars, imagining them a necklace encircling the blue earth. 2 A necklace rests between two collar bones, which protrude through uneven skin stained green. 3 Thin arms encircle the woman, dangling down over her frail body. The girl’s head weighs heavy on the bony shoulder, oblivious to the way their hair dances in the wind and envelopes them both like a necklace. 4 Vocal cords shiver like vines in a loud necklace around his ears. 5 Grab me tighter, she gasps. Hands grip fleshy hips, sheets damp and tossed off the twin bed to the dirty floor, heaped alongside a piled uniform and name badge, which she will display at work tomorrow along with a necklace of bruises. 6 Along the dirt road to my house lives a man, who stands hunched over his open palms as though wearing a necklace made of adobe. Every day I wish to trade him a necklace of jewels, but my back is curved, too. 7 Underneath stained glass preaches a man wearing a white necklace. His words meet broken minds yearning for hope. 8 A fallen tree exposes its necklaces kept on the inside, rings worth more than any jewels. 9 A green shell breaks the continuous blue water. No one attended the funeral, but the creature is adorned with a necklace of plastic. 10 The pebble skips across the surface, sending growing necklaces of waves to awaken the fish. 11 I gaze out the small window and see nothing but white. My vision fades to black, and I dream of drowning in clouds, trapped by my belt holding my waist like a necklace. 12 A horse statue stands outside the park. It appears unfinished, with half of the stomach gaping. The ribs are heads of horses reaching around the thin structure, forming a bony necklace choking the body. 13 Now you know the stars are not a necklace, but a crown.