I Don’t Need a Photo to Remember

They say you should take photos
Document your life
Look back at them someday
And remember.

But I don’t need a photo to remember
One of the best nights of my life
A 16-year-old butterfly in the last stages of metamorphosis
My last night with a green belt wrapped around my waist

I don’t need a photo to remember
The power and grace in my limbs
As I moved across the floor
All eyes on me
The moment of truth
Prove my worth
Show the world what I can do

I don’t need a photo to remember
Doing takedowns with a nidan twice my size
Breath torn from my lungs
Hip singing with impact when she flipped me and I wasn’t ready
Don’t break the tester; it’s only seven forty
I grinned

I don’t need a photo to remember
Doing yakusoku across the floor
Leg flies up, comes in, kicks out
Limbs colliding, striking, blocking
Faster with each step
A perfect harmony of movement

I don’t need a photo to remember
The kata I did in front of them
Purity in every move
Concentration
All alone
Nothing but the silence and stars

I don’t need a photo to remember
Sensei telling us
To do that same kata
In a circle
Eyes closed
Stay together
Following the rustle of gis
Can’t see the others
But having faith in my skill

I don’t need a photo to remember
Sparring five black belts in a row
Each round harder than the last
Nothing left but I kept going
Determination was my fuel

I don’t need a photo to remember
That L. almost cried
Because I got her brown belt
At the end of the night
Old and thick and worn
Tape residue from before we had sew-ons
Soaked in the history of women before me
I’m proud
I’m honored

I don’t need a photo to remember
My parents and senpais afterwards
Saying how proud they were
Not of themselves for creating
But of me for becoming

And I don’t need a photo to remember
How people twice my age looked at me
Forgot I was 16
No trace of condescension
Just
Respect.

 

Author’s Note: “Nothing bu the silence and stars” comes from the book A Million Suns by Beth Revis. The line came to mind while I was demonstrating the kata mentioned in the poem.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *