Brown Protagonist

by Aris Kian
“I am penned as dust and dawn, as sunlight
and pink horizon, mixing cement”

The first time a novel was mirror,
I shimmered like desert sand and didn’t
recognize myself until the second read.

My name was spelled in rain-tapped earth,
soil soaking underneath fingernails, a rippling
reflection in the root of a softwood tree.

I have never been more than a taste to a tongue
licking ink-stains on white lines and calling it black
skin. Chapter one: the words of callow palettes

chosen from a stock of bittersweet chocolates,
syrups and cinnamon. Walnuts and coffees
their mochas, their caramels, theirs to consume.

Perhaps they called me sweet because they
never learned the salted taste in spruce, in pine,
the pulp of hemlock and fir, dried and pressed.

My midnight silver’s carved into the page,
and I am brass knight on father’s chess board,
the studded grooves in a rocking chair.

I am penned as dust and dawn, as sunlight
and pink horizon, the mixing cement
and the moss in the brick, as cottonseed

and sunbaked hands, ones that know
what it means to be picked and replanted,
to be written for oneself by oneself.

Aris Kian is an inaugural member of CoogSlam, 2019’s 4th in the nation collegiate poetry slam team. She is ranked #10 in the 2020 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her work is published in Underground Journal, Panoplyzine, Defunkt Magazine and Write About Now. She is an Emerging Writers Fellow and facilitates poetry workshops for Writers in the Schools. She received her BA in English and is currently an MFA candidate for Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

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