Color Run and Shapeshifter

by Maia Joy

Color Run

when i was a child, i had trouble running.

my doctor told me that i had asthma.

i told my doctor that i did not feel like i 

could not breathe, but instead, that i was

too busy choking to not breathe; 

my entire childhood was a hundred-yard dash

from some of the most beautiful monsters 

that i had ever seen, ones that i wanted 

nothing more than to turn and run back to,

to admire in all their glory, but kept moving

for fear that their colorful spirits

would get stuck in the balloons in my lungs

and come out of my mouth when i least

expected it, a forbidden rainbow unleashed

for the whole world to see—

one day, when i had grown up tall and

not a single rainbow had passed my lips,

i registered for my first color run. i watched

as the beautiful monsters that i had once fled

spread vaseline and glitter across my skin,

their gentle touches sending sunshine and

glinting armor across my surfaces;

i waited for the other shoe to drop, 

for her to stop and swallow me into a

velvet bag of spells and charms and 

other queer trinkets— but instead, she smiled,

her lips parting as she blew across my skin

to seal the sparkles into their rightful home,

and said, “you look beautiful.” 

and when mine parted next, they say 

that the colored chalk fell, a single stream of 

pigment, from the tip of my tongue

and wrote love letters on the pavement

telling the children not to be afraid

of the colors that leave footprints

of flowers wherever they tread.


contrary to popular belief, chameleons

tend to change colors for communication or

regulation of their own body heat

rather than camouflage; 

on most days, i feel more like a confused reptile

cast out into the world in human skin than 

anything remotely Homo sapien— sometimes

my nervous system communicates to the world

without my consent, my surface merely 

a projection reflecting all of the intricacies 

that i had once so carefully tucked under the surface 

as a rainbow of secret spectra that 

not even Van Gogh could blend 

into something meaningful;

on some days, i feel more like the wallpaper

that keeps the shapeshifter themself safe

than anything sentient at all;


i peel myself, ribbon by ribbon, 

off of the wall, and weave a blanket

out of my own colors– the brightest ones

that i have ever known.

Maia Joy (she/her) is a queer biracial poet and musician from Boston, MA. A two-time Silver Key recipient from the Massachusetts Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, she is currently studying music and creative writing at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is a member of the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House. Her work can be found in Star 82 Review, Dreams Walking, the JFA Human Rights Journal, Anser Journal, Harpy Hybrid Review, Sage Cigarettes, and The Mark Literary Review. Newer work can be found on her social media @maiajoyspeaks, and her website,