3 poems

by Uma Menon

Uma Menon is a sixteen year-old student and writer from Winter Park, Florida. She received the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award from the Florida States Poets Association and was named a 2019 National Poetry Month Editors' Pick Poet by Brain Mill Press. Her debut book, Hands for Language, is forthcoming from Mawenzi House Publishing in 2020. Read more at www.theumamenon.com.

GIRL GROWING UP IN THE SOUTH ENTERS THE MIDWEST

A tall man lightly chuckles

when I tug the bus cord. He sees

my sunburnt fingers: deep

brown, but inside a tender red.

Empathy is fresh, I overhear

at the lunch counter.

I’m pulling the tomatoes out

of my sandwich—cheese,

lettuce, and soupy beans.

In the Midwest, vegetarians

are the tomatoes: picked

before ripe & tossed into

sandwiches. Once,

in Milwaukee, I forgot how

to speak. The restaurant owner tells me

not to worry & instead

hands me a check. I’m learning

to be grateful. The strawberries here

taste better than Florida. Fresher,

even.

Sometimes, After Junior Year

When I was younger,

I thought your voice could

cut through my ears.

It made me afraid sometimes,

like the time when

you lifted your eyebrows

at the vulture I brought home.

Over time, I learned

to make do:

my fingers rambling &

my tongues faltering.

Laughter was what

dissolved me—more

              than once—

but it taught me that

voices could sometimes

become their own

vultures.

Other times,

you were my only pair

of talons. It was me

grasping tightly, trying not

to fall from the stars

that you let me fashion. No wonder

the seventh point

is so beautifully lopsided.

Leaving Milwaukee

Field full of wishes

& a breath

too weak to keep

 

The sun has strewn

its clothes

across the midday sky

 

My hair—

dandelions,

sewn in place,

 

my lips

of lilacs plucked

as décor

 

We are falling

with hands

gripping our mouths

 

Lilacs &

dandelions

on concrete slabs

 

The empty streets

won’t take me

home,

 

but a cloudy hourglass

might keep me

silent