Runner-up for the 2017 Penn State Harrisburg
Sgt. Robert J. Miller Poetry Prize
From the Academy of American Poets

Whispers to Perfection

I sat there quietly
And listened to your very wholesome image
Of beauty
Not a pound larger than
A bargain bag of white rice
Not a shade darker
Than fresh vanilla pudding
Hair so straight
Even my ruler quivered
And eyes so bright and blue
Like 70’s denim disco pants

But then I looked
Into my lonely mirror
And I see that I do not compare
My skin is as dark as your deepest thoughts
My curls constantly winning
their battle against gravity
I despaired as I examined
Myself against your words

Oh how I despised my hair
My weight my color
How I became poignant with anger
And fear that I could not change
Who I am for who I want

But then I look at you
“Silly child” I say to myself
Is this what I want?
How quickly I trashed
My self-esteem for a mirage of happiness
You say I am not for you
But it is you who is not for me


Irenitemi Famaadewa, an honors student, was a runner-up in the 2017 Academy of American Poets prize.