Women as Water

By Iris Yu
10th grade, Solon High School, OH

With lines from "'They're Fearless': The Women Battling to Free Myanmar From Meth" by Kyaw Ye Lynn and Clare Hammond, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

In the background, the rifles
are always firing. Grown on gunshots
and disputed soil, the maize no longer tastes
half as sweet, and the laborer eases
his pain on a new kind of crop,
one born in the lab, rather than the field.
Lashi Htan loses two
of three sons to its gravity but
wraps their ankles in silver
shackles and pulls them back. Sister
Ester keeps small plastic bags of colourful meth
tablets beside her bed in replacement, or perhaps mourning,
of the ex-husband who coveted them. In the jungle,
these women huddle. They are mothers; they are those
who cannot stand the situation; they are Hkam Sha Hpung
and they are fighters, eager to spend nights hidden
in the brushwood, gray hairs lost in thick
undergrowth—all in order to ensnare the auctioneers who
only deal in misfortune. Eager to watch
the auctionhouses burn and snatch drugs
from greedy grips, blemished hands; eager
to wrestle the country from wet rodent paws and dispose
of the vermin. It does not matter whether a cat is
black or white, so long as it catches mice—and catch mice they
do, the last straw for drowning people to grasp as
the water pours in from all sides, sweeping in sixty
billion dollars of meth and misfortune. And the people drown. And
the lifeguards close their eyes. And the women—the women must
learn to swim. To shoot. To recognize bombs left outside their
front doors—and they do. In Myanmar, the rain
does not sting, but the women do.

Iris Yu
Iris Yu

Iris Yu is a high school student from northeastern Ohio, where she is the head of Solon High School's Creative Writing Club as well as the literary editor of Images, its literary magazine. To her, writing is, first and foremost, a pathway to catharsis, but she recognizes and appreciates its power as an informative and persuasive tool. When she is not writing, she can be found playing the piano or learning to crochet.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest