Color Outside the Lines

We are so excited to announce the winners of our writing contests.
Keep scrolling to read the full winning poem and short story!

Poetry Winner: Laura Akator

Laura Akator is a junior at the University of Arizona majoring in Creative Writing and Criminal Justice Studies. She’s currently working on creating a portfolio of creative nonfiction and poetry pieces, inspired by root work systems and what we leave behind. In her free time, she enjoys reading and cooking for her friends.

“black Is The Warmest Color”

and you’re a black girl,
you know this to be true,
not through word of mouth
and not from the way folks look at you
or are sometimes afraid to touch
or to hold for

Black is the warmest color
and it’s summertime,
and with this coming season,
and every dying monarch,
You feel more and more like your mother–
Her posture,
Her face,
Her smile;
As the sun beats down on her
and you, knowing
it’s light will have a home within her
and you, knowing
that her skin will always be home,
that her skin
and yours
will always be home.

black is the warmest color
And you, well
you’re a black girl
who knows what it means to want,
to etch your every desire into the night sky;
but only when it remembers
how to be as dark as you.

Short Story Winner: Brenna Guarino

Brenna Guarino is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, majoring in creative writing with a minor in food studies and Italian. They love watching Ghibli movies, taking long walks zoning out to podcasts, trying out new restaurants on the Tucson foodie scene, and geeking out about stories to unsuspecting friends. Brenna takes inspiration from trying to find magic in the mundane. They have been recently accepted into the English Honors Program to work on an honors thesis with Manuel Muñoz.

“Let Me Be Painted Blue”

I have my first kiss at a gay bar. It’s three months after my twentieth birthday, and I got in with a fake ID. She’s pretty, she’s so pretty with her curly black hair and her lapis eyes. She had bright blue lipstick, the same shade as sapphire, promising salvation. Maybe it’s the cocktail I had earlier, the vodka diluted with a sweet, sour blue raspberry syrup coursing through my veins, but I think I could fall in love with that grin she wore. I think I am in love with that grin. I want to be stained blue by her lips. 

“I like your hair!” She giggles, “You-you have to dance with me!” 

Two months after I left for college I dyed my hair blue. Not a navy blue, not one so dark it could almost be considered black. Bright blue that reminds me of the sky, bold and loud in a way my voice never managed to be. I wasn’t trying to be subtle, not like I had lived the rest of my life. I dyed it the same day I dropped out of organic chemistry, and looking in the mirror it felt like my soul was free for the first time. And now a pretty girl with lapis eyes and sapphire lips wants to dance with me. 

 She’s smaller than me. She has to tilt her head up to look at me, but her presence is larger than one I could ever dream of having. She yanks me down by my shirt, one of my dad’s old Hawaiian ones, blue, floral and ridiculous, and brings her lips to mine. My heart might give out in this moment, pounding like I’ve just run a marathon, and I can’t hear the music anymore. Just the thumping of my heart, the blood rushing to my head, ringing in my ears.  It’s just her lips on mine, but they’re soft, softer than I ever thought they could be. I don’t even know her name, but does it even matter? I never thought much about what my first kiss would be like, but I can’t imagine it being anything but this moment now. 

I feel like a baby deer. My legs might give out at any moment. Is this what my mother means when she says something is holy? Is this what God really is, drunk in a nightclub with the most beautiful girl in the world, stained by her blue lipstick? 

The world is designed to eliminate people like me. So the longer I hide from their gaze, the safer I am. I am not a fighter, I was not born to claw and scream my way to the top of justice and refuse to back down. I am a survivor, who learned to protect myself, to remain unnoticed so that I may not be hurt. But covered with someone else’s blue lipstick, my own hair dyed with the sky, I have never wanted more than to yell that I am here, that I am alive, and I will not go out quietly.  I like kissing pretty girls with blue lipstick, I like wearing my dad’s old shirts and I like having my hair blue. I think I finally realize now: who gives a fuck anymore about what I’m supposed to be?