By: Ren-Caspar Smith, 1st Place Division 2

he walks a fine line everyone wants to ignore
a grand tightrope act which no one really watches at all
he is always in the box marked “other”
there are piano keys coming together
to form a symphony in his skin
but they only ever see a child banging blindly, fists clenched
trying to make the loudest sound
because when you put black and white together
you are doomed to a life of grayscale
there’s not enough melanin in his skin
for him to hang with that crew
they hold his wrist next to theirs and scoff
and he’s wishing he was born just a few shades darker
and he’s thinking if they could just look closer at his features
the wide bridge of his nose
his round, dark eyes
his hair, thick and twisted
and his perseverance
and the soul in his voice when he sings
they might see him instead of a blank canvas
but they don’t know what it’s like
to grow up stretched so thin and pale
that your siblings see straight through you
there’s too much melanin in his skin
for him to hang with that crew
the words “What are you?”
roll off their tongues like knives to the chest
he’ll never be a “who” to them
he is an object, a plaything, a source of confusion
maybe if he gets lucky, he’s “exotic”
and he’s wondering what would change if he was born just a shade or two lighter
and he’s thinking it’s scary how mad they get
when you grow too big for the box marked “other”
he was taught to walk like a ghost
quiet and invisible
because his existence is disconcerting
to those on either side of the rift
his skin is too pale but his soul is too dark
and he swings the chains of his ancestors around
like a sword in the great battle of life
but it feels like his fathers are watching him
it feels like they’re smiling
it feels like they’re reading over his shoulder when he writes
it feels like he is the last chance they have at justice
so the next time someone looks him up and down
and spits “What are you?’
(as if there is a right way to answer the question)
he won’t stutter

Isabella SmithAbout the Poet:Ren-Caspar Smith is a recent high school graduate and artist. Ren writes from a place of emotional intimacy and intersectional experience. They have been writing poetry since the age of 8, and since then have found immense comfort and strength in the power of poetry to move and unite people from all walks of life.


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