Sestina of the Twenties

My grandmother wears a chain of opals
in a bluish, bronze­-laced, beaded jewel ring
around her neck. They’re warm on her skin, fair
and pale, so smooth and luminescent—their
multicolored cracks gleam for me to see—
jangling on her as she dances each night.

She tells me that in her youth, footsore nights
were spent at speakeasies, buried beneath opal
sequins, where men lined up at bars to see
the way she would dance. There was not a
ring on her finger, no husband, nothing there
but the roaring twenties and red lips, fair

skin, and eyes so wide it seemed quite unfair
to have a life so free. Loose, wild, each night
she spent swaying with handsome boys, with
their hands placed on her hips, buying her opals,
drinks, glitter and more glitter, diamond rings,
and smooth pearl necklaces straight from the sea.

Downtown, the party began with sweet seas
of wine and evening gowns. A girl with fair
hair and long legs took to the center ring­—
she allowed the smooth jazz to blur the
night in a saxophone sonnet. The opals
flew along my grandmother’s neckline, their

creamy edges diving by her throat, their
shine glowing brighter than the pulsing sea
of shimmering smoke and stunning opal
smiles. Crowds of half-­drunk women and men, fair
cheeks turned red from beer too soon in the night;
this was the life. Chimes of wine glasses rang

in toasts; they cheered for all—from the gold rings
on their toes to the lavish liquor. Their excitement
was contagious in the night
air, lifting up bow ties and glitter. See
the way they would pay the night with a fare
of loose hair, lipstick, and shining opals!

Grandma still wears the ring of stones. Seeing
the cracks on their wine­-scented, foggy, fair
coats, she twirls at night, clutching her opals.

Writer: Jasmine Nguyen is a high school student, and attends OCSA, the Orange County School of the Arts. She is currently in 9th grade, and hopes to continuously improve her writing each year.

Artist: Larissa Marcano is a junior at Laguna College of Art+Design. She majors in illustration with Entertainment Emphasis and minor in creative writing. She started doing art at a young age and is happy to be making it into a career.

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