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in the mirror i saw my life’s erosion

by niteowl

i have never been out west
(and may never make it--my gadabout heart strangled
by anxious neurons commanding my muscles
to stay put, because they remember
what happens when i leave) 

but i see the grand canyon every day on my forehead.

it feels cataclysmic, not a story of gradual erosion
but a biblical flood, a sign of divine displeasure,
a reminder that the hourglass is only so big
and i don't know when that last grain will fall,
but i am closer to that moment
than when my forehead was smooth
and i  never even stopped to think
it might not always be that way

i see ads for retinol and serums
and toners and moisturizers and eye creams
and night creams and i try some
because that's what you're supposed to do, but i know
that they're all just umbrellas in the flood.

once the wrinkles have cut canyons, google says,
i have one choice. botox always sounded
like a luxurious necessity for the rich and vain
and i'm not rich and too ugly for vanity,
but i also don’t want to fade away
into a jagged mess of wrinkles and sunspots
that no one sees.   

some might say thirty-two isn't that old
but my mother felt ancient on her wedding
day at thirty-three, and my grandmothers had their babies
by twenty-nine, and here i am lying awake, begging the screen
to tell me if it's time to poison my face muscles
because i don't have anyone else to ask.

Is this a review?



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487 Reviews

Points: 4379
Reviews: 487

Sun Mar 26, 2023 5:17 pm
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Meshugenah wrote a review...


So basically I love this, and all I really have are some nitpicks because dang. Talk about scathing (and I love your tag to this, too).

Last two lines of the first stanza are great, and transition nicely into the next line.

Next stanza, I would nix "a sign of divine displeasure," and transition straight in to the next line (I mean, you may need to play a bit with line breaks), but that part specifically is superfluous in context. I'm not positive "when you were" is needed? Or maybe I'm reading it incorrectly?

The next stanza the first three lines work, but not as well as the rest of the poem. I'm not quite positive what it is, but I think it's something in the second line that is too many syllables to fit nicely. I'm half tempted to say to just pull out the entire second line (the first I like), but then I'd want to jump from "serums" straight to "and i try..." which then misses some of the point of the repetition that is in the second line into the third. Basically something is slightly off to my reading, but I don't have a great solution to what's nagging at me.

I love what you're doing in the next stanza with botox. My only pick (other than is that an extra period at the end of the stanza, last line?) is that I don't like "needed," but pulling it would require rewording (something like "the sort of thing only for the rich and vain," which i'm not sure is better in any fashion). I adore "I'm not rich and too ugly for vanity." That is just perfect. Not sure you need "no one hears" at the end - I think "sees" is the stronger word to end on, mostly because this is so focused on the visible.

Last stanza I have similar thoughts - just nitpicks, ways to tighten up just a bit. Nothing big or major. Like, "at thirty-three" I would nix, since age is implied to be similar to your narrator already stated an age that nearly matches, so it follows that the other comparisons follow in a similar age range. Plus, you don't name it specifically for the grandmothers, so that would parallel better without the specific for the mother. "three apiece" could be kept or taken off - it breaks the parallel in a way that emphasizes, and I'm not sure I like it, but I think that's more personal preference. I can't decide if I like "muscles" or not, since it's somewhat redundant, and I keep going back and forth.

So, all the nitpicking aside, I love this. Cynical, critical, societal commentary is one of my favorite things. Looking forward to stalking your NaPo even more, now <3

niteowl says...

Thanks for the review! Made some edits, got rid of the random second-person stuff still hanging around, took out the "no one hears" since it definitely felt superfluous. For the grandmothers line, I wanted the age comparison to be in there still, but I cleaned it up a bit. Not sure I'm totally happy with the result, but it's the best I've got for now. Thanks again! :D

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9 Reviews

Points: 725
Reviews: 9

Sun Mar 26, 2023 5:45 am
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figmoon wrote a review...

Hey niteowl!

So I really enjoyed the concept behind this - the connection of natural landscape with the landscape of skin features is really clever. And comparing a seemingly "timeless" quality of nature with aging and vanity was powerful. The canyon metaphor particularly stuck out to me while reading; it created a strong image in my mind.

Something I felt while reflecting on the last stanza was that the canyon/nature imagery seemed to be left behind, which kind of made the ending detached to that continuous theme? I just almost wish there was some sort of allusion to the imagery that was so prevalent at the beginning of the poem towards the end here! There's a reference to the speaker's mother feeling "ancient" - maybe this could be compared to some sort of natural landscape?

This is kind of really particular, but I thought I'd mention it since it came to mind when reading:

their babies, three apiece, and here you are, asking the portal
to all the world's knowledge if it's time to poison your face muscles
because you don't have anyone else to ask.

I feel like there could be more variety in the verbs used, just with the repeated "asking" in the first line here and "ask" at the end?

and I’m not rich and too ugly for vanity,

Noticed that the "I" was capitalized in "I'm" and was assuming it was just autocorrect, but thought I'd mention it since it is a break in the uncapitalized style you have going throughout the poem!

that no one sees, no one hears.

Okay, so this was interesting to me. I'm not sure how I feel about "no one hears" - the theme relevant to this whole piece is heavily dependent upon physical features, vanity, aging, etc, and I feel like "no one hears" is slightly straying from that? Like, it's introducing a side issue/unrelated topic that opens up a whole other possibility that isn't really elaborated upon. I supposed this is being quite particular though, since it's a really minute area of the poem! :]

it feels cataclysmic, not a story of gradual erosion
but a biblical flood, a sign of divine displeasure,

Okay, I LOVE these lines! The phrasing "biblical flood" with "divine displeasure" is so pleasant to me; the slight alliteration is perfect and the consistent adjectives of "biblical" and "divine" work so well consecutively.

I really loved this piece! The connection of terrain/nature and body features and aging is very wonderfully done, and I love the language you used throughout. Hopefully, this review was helpful in some way! And of course, take or leave anything I said :]

Hope to see more from you soon!

niteowl says...

Thanks for the review! I cleaned some things up including the random capitalized I...that's what I get for trying to edit on my phone lol. I did get rid of the "no one hears"...I was thinking about how women are basically deemed insignificant (and thus unheard) as they get older, but I agree it's tangential. As for the ending, I originally did have it tie back in to the grand canyon, but the ending felt too hopeful for this particular piece when I tightened it up.

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353 Reviews

Points: 1859
Reviews: 353

Sun Mar 26, 2023 4:19 am
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LadySpark wrote a review...

hi friend!

i am obsessed with this reflection on growing older and watching your body grow older. When you started out, I wasn't sure where you were going, but by the time you hit your "grand canyon" line, I was like "okay yes, this is going where I want and hoped".

Honestly, there's so much I relate to in this poem that it really evokes strong emotion in me. I have been going through a *journey* with my skin, and it's been really depressing and sad to think about my "young" skin and how comparatively perfect it was to what I have now. I also have this whole patch of grey hair that just doesn't stop growing and makes me cry every time I think about it— but that's another story. ANYWAY, I'm just trying to get across how relatable your narrative line is and how much I enjoy it.

There may be a few places here and there that could be workshopped, but overall it's solid and just as long/short as it needs to be. I'm not usually an advocate for adding words to poems (usually I'm pushing less words in my reviews lol) but I think "(and may never make it--my gadabout heart" could benefit from an 'is' on the end for flow. Idk what it is, just something about the extra syllable works better for me. I'm also conflicted about this "you". They're not mentioned very often, just in this stanza and at the very end— and while I like both lines a lot, I also feel like it disrupts the rhythm a little bit when the rest of the poem is so reflective.

the last stanza, particularly the final two lines are excellent.

nice work! i'm excited to follow your napo thread! good luck in april :)

niteowl says...

Hi, thanks for the review! I agree that the "you" doesn't make sense-I originally wrote this as an odd mix of first and second person, decided to change it all to first person for exactly the reason you stated, but I guess the "we" and the last stanza escaped my notice. Working on edits now. :)

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6 Reviews

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Reviews: 6

Sun Mar 26, 2023 1:47 am
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iriisblooms wrote a review...

Hi! Iris here to leave a quick review ^^
I won't lie, this piece is beautiful. I love the way you wrote it in all lowercase letters, and I feel like it gives it a really soft feeling that softens the blow of the words being said. It really hit me hard but in a good way, because it feels, not good, but at least comforting in a way to know that people face the same fears and feelings as I do.
Keep on writing and don't be afraid to tell people feelings and fears. <3

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57 Reviews

Points: 258
Reviews: 57

Thu Mar 23, 2023 6:25 pm
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Sunflowerdemon3712 wrote a review...

Sunflower here for a quick comment.

This hit way too hard for me. While I personally don't deal with the fear of aging in the beauty sense I do have an extreme fear of aging due to a medical condition I have that's only supposed to get worse with time. Time is one of those terrifying things and it's one of the only things we as humans have in common, we will all age we will all continue to march on and in a way I think that's very important to remember. I don't really have an answer for your dilemma I do wish you the best and something I like to remember is a latin saying my mom told me: Dum vita est, spes est.
So honestly I think you should go on that trip west :)
Sorry for not really giving any good advice lol. Have a great day/night though! Bye!

she slept with wolves without fear, for the wolves knew there was a lion among them.
— r.m. drake