We are the children on the riverbank this late afternoon,
Muddying ourselves in the ceremonial flow.
The mud surrounds us
Flesh and earth as one,
Where does my skin end
The earth begin?

I press my hands into the viscous ground
Ice in water.
Wading deeper in, the dirt lapping over the gently rolling hills of my body
Waist deep, upright,
I am the mud
I am the river
With all its yellow, blue, and green canoes
That cast long shadows on its clouded currents.

On you I can see the mud,
The dusty hue stands out.
Makrana marble marred by
Centuries of mottled brown feet.
Your reflection is as brilliant as the reddening disc above.
Where is my reflection?

And when I leave the river they say I am dirty,
Its drying tendrils beginning to crack
Along the ridges of my back, hands, and stomach,
Clay enwrapping these wiry black strands in tight embrace,
Smoothed over the skin of my greyish forehead.

The turbid air is bathed in rose as the mud slips down to your feet,
Undulating currents of filth sliding across your face and chest
The backs of your slender calves,
Pooling around your clavicle.
Night blooming jasmine,
A distant call of bells.

You are dirty,
They repeat.
But I am not dirty I am the dirt,
I am the river, I am the earth.

Originally published in KidSpirit Online for the Storytelling and Narrative issue.

Zeeshan Hassan-Andoh was in the 11th grade at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, when he wrote this poem. He is of Pakistani and Ghanaian origin and enjoys travel, reading, writing, architecture, and drawing.