River War

Jessica Kim
9th grade, La Canada High School, CA

With lines from "The Lonely Prosecutor: One Man's Historic Fight for Justice in Central Africa" by Jack Losh, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

when dusk falls,
silhouettes of ferrymen
creep across the darkening veins
into her mineral-rich heart
until the shards of her decomposed history
reek with the atrocities of an unfinished war,
and bullets enshrined in stale blood
are shed by the ghosts of the inheritance
who have fought in futility,
leaving only an afterthought
by filling a space in somebody else's map—
on somebody else's land,
they have lost and gained only the leftovers
of the scramble for Africa;
                             but the murky shadows of men still beat on
                                         with the palpitating currents
                                   shouting for their forsaken country
                                      with the hopes of finding peace
                           on the river banks drenched in the moonlight;
                                                                                 but already the moon has veiled itself
                                                                              amidst the spirits of the unburied dead
                                                                                                           that clog the waterway,
                                                                 and even when a lone soul stands on a lifeboat
                                                                                                chequered in black and white,
                                                                                                                      calling for justice,
                                                                                            the shapeshifting crocodile-men
                                                                                  will grasp his ankles to pull him down
                                                                                                                           leaving nothing
                                                                                                         but the wails of his defeat
                                                                                                           foaming in the darkness.

Jessica Kim
Jessica Kim

Jessica Kim is a part of the Class of 2023 at La Canada High School in California. Having also lived in Singapore and South Korea, her poems are often inspired by her diverse experiences and identity. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Eunoia Review, The Daphne Review, and Rising Phoenix amongst others. As a visually impaired student who is passionate about shining the light on marginalized groups in society, she is so grateful to the Pulitzer Center for recognizing her work.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest