I wrote this poem last year for a creative writing competition at my university where it eventually won me $100 and the Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller Poetry Prize (2013). In the Spring of 2014, it got published in From the Fallout Shelter, a campus literary magazine. I’ve added the judge’s critique below for I think it adds to the poem in a way I can’t quite explain; however, it must be said that it makes me sound a lot more glorious than I actually am (especially when it comes to writing, definitely when it’s poetry). I didn’t consciously plan for any of the things that the judge pointed out — they just happened.
Half of a Face
In small bumps and craters
that fingertips dive into,
a rash, porous touch of expression
layered in dismembered membrane,
miniature hills spread uneven, casting
a shadow on dead—occasionally red—cells
stretching nowhere on the surface.
My thoughts permeate the air,
Who would dare make such ghastly art?
A step or two back and the hills
now recede in their reach,
shades of red stretch further beyond,
and more small craters camouflage
into other small craters, till all is one
revolting half of a face, a victim
to an acid attack, an art no more to me
but an ugly truth of our worlds.
The Why burdens our immediate atmosphere,
Chose to speak out against oppression.
The voice straining, demanding
to reveal an unbroken strength, a resolve
of thundering magnitude placed carefully
in the space between us, suspended
in the thought of half a face—
nature’s art—rendered lifeless.
Monsters, I think.
Monsters, she says.