I cough irrationally
and my grandmother clicks her tongue
and shakes her head.
She has burgundy hair,
deep maroon like her prayer rug
and the flower accents on her couch.
Her fingernails are dyed with henna,
and there are deep creases beneath her eyes,
family secrets hidden in the folds
of her cheeks.
There are bamboo stalks lining her stairs
and they curl like my hair,
except they are a reedy jungle green
and I am sun-lit brown, red
at the very edges like fire.
My mother is too thin;
98 pounds of sharp bones
and disappointment. She wears
long dresses and shoulder pads,
to make up for the fat and health
that has long gone.
The kitchen was renovated
two years ago, the wallpaper
a rhythmic pattern of flower pots
and tea cups. There is a burn spot
above the stove
and I have not stopped coughing.
Yasmin Belkhyr, Age 16, Grade 11, Garden School, Gold Key