Torch: a reckoning in the wake of the Charlottesville, VA protests, Aug 12, 2017

Jun 1, 2024 | 2024 Summer - More than One Letter, Poetry

By Nicole Miyashiro

A portable means of illumination. A stick.
In a sweaty hand. Head ablaze.
Mouth open.

Raised by a mob, hunting
variations in pigment, the melanin we all began with
to shield us
from the burn.

Flames to threaten. This skin
that covers this land, this body breathing, bearing
new life, deepening in sunlight; slick
thighs parting. An infant
calling for his dark mama’s milk. Is this the threat?
Which of these?

Where did you find her? My Polynesian light, Lady
lifting flames for you and all, because this
is America, is where
we meet
and meld.

Carved in Tiki, stoking
the goddess light of Pele above heads that chase
my skin, her truth aglow despite all those fingers
forgetting how to hold her, how to touch
her fire. Her heat
of fertility raised. Luminous.
A beacon.

Lit in backyard porches, at barbecues, bordering
your neighbor’s pool, flickering on the 4th
of our July. Do you mean to burn me with it? To ravage
my soil?

To set to fire.
A spectrum of cells replying to the sun
in our hair, in thin layers of tissues
shaping our curves, in the iris
of the eye. Bring the light, the dark, the illuminated
rainbows. Lady Liberty, goddess of freedom, Pele of light. Lift that torch
and grip
whom it is meant for, the united flames
still being born.

Jablonski, Nina. “Skin color is an illusion.” TED 2009. Feb. 2009.

“The Polynesian Tiki.” The Tahiti Traveler. 4 Sept. 2013. 

“Postponing Bartholdi’s statue until there is liberty for colored as well.” The Cleveland Gazette. Cleveland, Ohio. 27 Nov. 1886. p. 2. 

Teamotuaitau, Josiane. “In Hawai’i, in the Wake of the Goddess Pele.” Welcome Tahiti. 20 Nov. 2017. 

Nicole Miyashiro is a biracial, cis femme, bi and married mama and adoptee living in central Pennsylvania, U.S. Her work appears in BWQ, CALYX, The Hudson Review, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press), and elsewhere.

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