Kill All Monsters

Mirror, mirror on the wall--
be honest with me one more time
before you go blind;
before I disappear and you start to lie. 

I am ugly,
so they say and have said
for as far back as my memory reaches.
The unkind ask straight-out,
"Were you in an accident?"
The kind remark on my beautiful eyes
and let the rest hang in the air like lost birds.

It's a great day for my mother,
hiding in her space suit of conventionality. 
The doctor in whom she has such faith--
who treats me like a block of wood
and speaks as if I weren't sitting right there--
thrills her when he holds my nose up with his thumb
and she gushes 
that now I look like her darling, my sib.

Mirror, mirror
tell it to me straight, as a sweet sixteen gift
before you lose the truth forever
and I vanish into this involuntary shift.

I know that others find me ugly
and that my mother finds me ugly
because she comes right out and says so.
But I am not ugly to myself--
I am simply me.

After tomorrow,
after blood and blades and anesthetic,
someone will heal and go back to school and marry and grow old,
but she won't be me.
I'll be riding inside, in my island prison, unseen.
Someone will say, "You look so pretty,"
and it will mean nothing to me,
it having been said about someone else,
this mask-face I can never take off even for a second.  

Mirror, mirror,
tell me the truth before you deceitfully bend--
before I submit to the will of others
and am never seen again.

Dedicated to the disfigured, the different, the intersexed, and all children whose bodies are altered without their consent.

And in memory of Lucy Grealy, author of "Autobiography Of A Face." In the arms of the angels, Beautiful.

For Fireblossom Friday "This Is (Almost) The End" at Toads.

Image at top: Adele Exarchopolous from the movie "Blue is The Warmest Color" 


brudberg said…
I find this chilling in all respects. I was probably not considered sweet but as a boy you could get by (at least if you did well at school)... I feel so sad when that moment just before the blades...
. said…
This is an Amen of a poem, all on its own:

"I am not ugly to myself--
I am simply me.

After tomorrow,
after blood and blades and anesthetic,
someone will heal and go back to school and marry and grow old,
but she won't be me."

I read this as an FU to everyone who wanted to change her, because here she is, running away and refusing to be part of it all. Whoever's going through this surgery IS NOT her.

Unless you read the full poem. :)
annell4 said…
What is "beauty" after all? Is it not found in the eye of the beholder? So sad, when all the world is blind, and cannot see, the "beauty," before them. The "beauty of a child"? I suppose it is a desire for the child to get along in life, but it is misplaced. Perhaps it would be better for the "eye" to be plucked out!
Anonymous said…

A true slap in the face start. Bites right into the heart - and then unfolds - like a story/snake shedding skin - the truth revealed layer by layer, scales and all. And yet, who is to decide on Beauty - when it can only ever live in spirit and soul - and in a world where visual is all we instantly perceive, receive and unfortunately believe?

I love the grounding of the repeating mirror stanzas - altered as they are, carrying the narrative along.

And the double word play? of "bend" - yes, the truth lies or actually rests in knowing that one has to gather strength, bend and flex in spirit, to know oneself, and keep believing in the light of "just easy breath" -

I think many can relate to this, in so many ways. Vanity, in the eyes of the beholder, is an inglorious bastard/bitch.

Powerfully worded to give voice to those who get lost for the sea of insanity.
Brendan said…
I'll never forget an essay I read a couple decades ago about women and boob jobs. The writer said when a woman adds foreign material to enhance their body, they cease having any relation with that part. What is the absence in me that someone lovingly squeezes? Even more so a face, that unique fingerprint; to alter it is to kill the person who once shone through it. That a mother would do it to a child ... is abhorrent ... understandable though, in a mother's desire that her child not be lost in the mating shuffle. St. Brigid was said to be beautiful, and prayed for the gift of deformity, that her true mission on earth not be betrayed. You make of mirrors a suburbia -- the grand lie which gives us such comfort.
Ellecee said…
That such a thing could happen seems unimaginable and yet it does, over and over. How absolutely devastating to this child. A strong write and one that leaves me bereft for those who suffer so.
Kerry O'Connor said…
This strikes me as a very personal story, but at the same time the voice is communal - all the inner monologues given a chance to breathe.

It also hits home for me, as I have been reading this past week of the IAAF deliberately changing the rules of international participation in women's athletics so as to exclude Caster Semenye from competing. Individual dignity and the basic right to live as one was born remains open to debate by strangers.
revelations said…
Seeing I followed my own "oddball" track in life I can relate somewhat to this although being male the perspective isn't quite the same
Sherry Blue Sky said…
Wow. That "mother". The words hanging in the air like lost birds - fantastic. My mother found me ugly, so this poem resonates with me. I especially admire that someone "riding inside, in my island prison, unseen." One hopes that when that child grew up, many others "saw" her and loved her beauty and her fire. This is a stunning "before" moment, Shay. I am continually amazed at what humans do to other humans, thinking it is okay. Sigh.
tonispencer said…
I am reminded of my husband who had a lazy eye and a drooping eyelid. I say had. His parents badgered him until he had surgery to correct the lazy eye and the drooping lid. I thought he was perfect as he was and I loved him. At the end of the surgery his mother was in tears - oh he is perfect, my handsome son. I barely restrained myself from slapping her. the things society does to people if they are not perfect. If she had been my mother instead of my real mother, I imagine she would have had me put on a rack and stretched until I was 5'5". The mothers and society who try to bend their children into beauty never realizing the beauty that is already there.
grapeling said…
how cruel we are ~
What a tragic tale!

My Mum constantly badgered me about all the ways in which she wanted me to conform, and expressed the opinion that my long hair was my "one beauty"– but luckily plastic surgery was rare in those days, and the "cosmetic" kind so common today was unknown. Nevertheless, her attitude was enough to convince me for the rest of my life that I am ugly. It's a deep, irrational and immovable thing, impervious to logic or other people's opinions.

Still I kept a stubborn, defiant core of Self. Your protagonist sounds as if she will do that too.
Kim M. Russell said…
Such a powerful poem, Shay. I like the way you repeat the words of a fairy story to emphasise the lies we are told. Who has the right to impose their ideas of beauty on anyone? Especially a mother on her own child! I was willing her to refuse to submit to the will of others and get out of there.
How chilling to read this. How sad that she will never be herself again.

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