Grandma Velma

Arah Ko, Wheaton College


This is what she remembers: primary school,
when the children called her white trash,
the shanties across the river where the colored
people lived, the scorch of the Arkansas earth
beneath her bare feet, hunger.

She keeps these even as she forgets
my name, forgets hers.

On good days, she tells me about that time
she crossed the creek, dirty feet chilled in the bend
where a cottonmouth kissed her thigh,
how the old man found her there, nursed
the venom from the slit with his dark lips.

Now on bad days, when she trembles, I brush
her hair, press my lips to her temple, just above
the twisted puzzle of her brain, and she tells me
about the church where the old man was lynched:

the night it burned was hotter than an afternoon
on her grandpa’s farm, even from where she stood,
soft ash falling in her hair while she watched the steeple;
its skeleton glowed all white in the darkness.

Arah Ko is a rising junior at Wheaton College, but she hails originally from Hawai’i. Her work has appeared in KodonThe PubSub-Creation Journal, Teen Ink, BRICKrhetoric, Crashtest, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. When not writing, she can be found explaining her name pronunciation to coffee shop baristas, frequenting open mic nights, and searching for the meaning of life, other than 42.