So does this year turn me sepia?
Wrinkled by the amount of times I’ve screamed,
cheeks grayish from saltwater drizzle.
Now they say my hands are wise enough to be trusted
on a steering wheel,
grown enough to fit a rifle between my fingers
and cuddle it at night like a teddy bear.
I’m asked to sign ballots
with yawning words that make me feel
like I’m back in the uterus.
A brainless cereal of cells
with more rights than their mother.
So I’m forced to hold life in my body
against my will, not allowed
to free myself from pain –
yet I am allowed to take a life, or many
with the rapid turn of my elbow in a car
or the press of my finger on a trigger.
Tell me why we are celebrating.
Tell me why there are candles
staining my pupils when I close my eyes,
and sweetness dissolving on my tongue.
The old lady in the restaurant
calls me a darling young girl,
yet the drunk man on the sidewalk offers me beer.
I can taste it all on my palms.
The softness of my baby hands clutching things
in my peripheral view,
constant newness freckling my plump cheeks.
And I taste the feeling of a red plastic cup,
sticky and crinkling in my hand
as I stumble through a world of vomited traffic lights.
I’ve never prayed for anything.
I’ve only whispered to the sky that cloaks me in childhood
and hoped that life would turn out okay.
But laws are passed and overturned
and each wicked grin in congress rips the fabric of my cloak
off my body.
Does this year mean I must confront it all?
Must add my tears to the puddle of my generation
and join them in changing things,
use my tender, fragile mind to fight the people who think me less valuable
than a fetus.
If I walk with my lover,
I must shade our hands under our shadows.
I must only kiss her in the dark,
or never kiss her at all.
Supposedly I was born to love this world,
to thrive under the solar system
and the way it ignores me.
As I age my value lessens,
yet I must value everything I touch,
every sense I’ve been blessed with, and every wink
a man throws me from his truck window.
But if I wink at a woman whom I love
I could be thrown behind rusted gray bars.
Is this adulthood?
I will not let the way my body has crystalized
or the way I bleed on the crescent moon
dictate how I must treat and be treated
by the world.
and give them the sound of my scream.
How I stretch my neck into the fog
and spit out a raging thunderstorm
until they finally hear me.
Haze is a junior in creative writing at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco. They have work published in several literary publications, including Synchronized Chaos, The Weight Journal, and Parallax Journal, and have performed their poetry at the Youth Art Summit in San Francisco and 826 Valencia. When Haze is not writing, they can be spotted cuddling their three cats, holding their python, feeding their tarantula, or rescuing insects from being squashed.