By Archer Bouslog
12th grade, Theodore Roosevelt High School, IA

With lines from “For Ghana’s Only Openly Transgender Musician, ‘Every Day Is Dangerous’” by Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

she could have bloomed much earlier
yet the frost of hatred kept her petals crumpled
encouraged her roots to slow their descent—

pushing up through the ground is equal parts joyful

winding her way up among thickets of animosity
it is hard to see a future for herself
when this dangerous endeavor
saps the music from her colors

newly bloomed amongst the fading heads of her brethren
she is welcomed 
by stinging air
the barest glimpse of a sunbeam
the fond hands of her Gardener

                                                                  (the Gardener cradles us in a rough embrace)

                                                                                    (punches stakes into the soil)

                                                                              (ties our stems upright with twine)

                                                                                        (tilts our heads to the sun)

                                                                                                                              He says
                                                                                                                                                                     i created her in my own image
                                                                                                                                                with thorns to pierce hands that wander
                                                                                                                                                             leaves unfurling to span centuries
                                                                                                                                                        in galvanized, outspoken opposition
                                                                                                                                                                             to the droughts she’ll face
                                                                                                                              He says
                                                                                                                                          i do not think I could have survived that life
                                                                                                                                                                  the ache of unrealized ambition 
                                                                                                                                                                        fettered behind brick borders
                                                                                                                                                         the imposition of manicured beauty
                                                                                                                              He says
                                                                                                                                                    this is the only way my voice can reach
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  with her 

                                                                                                                                                                         growing into her own design
                                                                                                                                                                               an advocation of artistry
                                                                                                                                                                dedicated in devotion to growth
                                                                                                                           He says
                                                                                                                                                                 i created her in my own image


                                                                                                                                                                                                            i love her.

At the time of writing this poem, I was a senior at Theodore Roosevelt high school in Des Moines, Iowa. I've always loved writing, but only recently found myself interested in writing poetry. I love how it speaks to emotion in ways that longer works often struggle with. This piece was inspired by the emotions I and other trans people face in our daily lives— how we discover and love ourselves despite others doing their best to prevent us.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.