by Divya Mehrish
I can differentiate between periwinkle and cyan—
this pickiness is what makes me woman (according
to my brother). I can differentiate between cerulean
and cobalt—is this an attention to detail or an unhealthy
obsession with labeling, with defining, with separating?
Did you know blue is not a color? In my book, blue
is the body of origin, and indigo, azure, and aquamarine
are infants who emerged from the womb via C-section.
After the birth, the midwives—oceans of Mother Earth—
stained each little head a different shade of childhood,
depending on the tides and the waves and the salinity
of the ebb and flow. Perhaps I am woman only because
I possess the ability to birth color. I wonder what I will
name the hue of my own newborn’s soft skin. I wonder
if my child will ask me, as I once asked my mother,
why did the sun stain my body yellow? I was eight,
and I wanted nothing more than to be pink and white
and rosy, just like the girls at school. I wanted to be
a flower. My mother narrowed her eyes and pursed
her lips. She knew then, as she knows now, that when
it comes to tales spun about color, I never forget. Olive,
she said. You are olive. I frowned and bit my lip. I thought
of oil, of salt, of the tangy sting of each bitter, brined bulb.
I wanted so much to be fragrant, to be worth inhaling, to be
worth picking and holding up to nose and lips, puckered
like a kiss, to be worth the title of “beautiful.” Over the years,
as my skin has hardened and continued to yellow, I’ve realized
that I have no choice but to surrender to the stains. My body
is a solar landscape. I no longer try to define the waters of sky—
instead, I name each ray of sun. As spring wafts into summer,
I become saffron for a fortnight before metallic heat blinds
my cheeks first into bronze, then brass. In winter, I am jasmine
with a hint of ground ginger and dandelion. But it is in autumn
when Mother Earth holds me in her arms and blesses
the lemon zest freckled onto my temples—it is in autumn
when I am gold.
Divya Mehrish is a writer and student at Stanford University. Her work has been recognized by the National Poetry Competition, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the Scholastic Writing Awards, and the Columbia College Chicago’s Young Authors Writing Competition. Her writing has been published in or is forthcoming from Sojourners, PANK, Coastal Shelf, Prairie Margins, Broken Pencil, Ricochet Review, Blue Marble Review, Polyphony Lit, Tulane Review, and Amtrak’s magazine The National, among others.
The Roadrunner Review nominated “Color Wheel” for a 2022 Pushcart Prize.