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Camphor Trees -- poetry by Barrett Ahn

Flecks of melanin speckle her skin

She hates them

She hates how if they took a pen and

linked them like a connect-a-dot they could draw

a lopsided diamond, a star, an X.

She smiled, her face creased

Their cheeks crinkled as they laughed

Pulling their eyelids apart into slits

She stopped smiling.

She does not want the color in her skin

She was golden until they told her she was not

She wanted triangles for lunch

right angles against white provolone

She got red orange savory fire

It smelled. It was thrown out.

She does not speak the language of her mother

of her father, of her great-great grandma

a broken branch on the family camphor tree

Foreign vowels caught in windpipe

wobbling on tongue, stuck between teeth

Sinking back into lungs

But camphor leaves fell in the springs to come

Flowers grew in the cracks in the pavement

She wishes she could take the silences back

learns to say thank you

understand- forgive-sorry

For she is golden once more

and camphor trees bloom in the places she hid

and she traces the marks on her face and she smiles

and she no longer wants to begin again.


Barrett Ahn is a senior at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, TeenInk, the Decameron Project, and more. She completed her debut novel, Of Swords and Seasons, now available on Amazon Kindle. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading or eating her favorite Korean dish, sundubu.

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