Eve — By Mary Silwance



That on the eve of

her birthday she requests

for her eyebrows to be done

explaining other girls

do it, have been doing it


so my mother


with a French-tipped nail

slowly trails

my daughter’s brow

and colluding



a rite of passage

and I wonder


into what.




That on the eve of

her birthday she asks

and I am thrust

into adolescent self alteration parading the catwalk,

masquerading the minefield

of female rites of passage,

into the cult of blind self-consciousness

clambering up the Sisyphean slope

of the unattainable oasis

the backlit mirage of perfection.


When did she start dissecting her (whole) self

into pieces (of self) and render them


Where will the lines of her newly shaped brows take her?

nose job, boob job, hair job, lip jobs above and below

we decry FGM at the hands of mothers and aunties

across the sea

yet practice our own mutilation at the hands of mothers and aunties

right here




That on the eve of

her birthday she asks

for her eyebrows to be done

explaining other girls

do it, have been doing it


so I


trail my soil-stained hands

along her pristine face

and offer


your brows are perfect as they are

on your perfect as it is face your

perfect as it is you

and for the long

moment of your being

you will remain glorious





let us

move the needle

not to you but from you

to excise the lie


right the passage.

~ Mary Silwance

Mary Silwance is an environmental educator and activist who blogs at Tonic Wild and cofounded One Less Pipeline. She is a mother of three and a gardener who aspires to having goats, bees and chickens. Her work has been published in Syracuse Cultural Workers Datebook, Konza Journal, Descansos and Sequestrum.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of two dozen books, including, most recently, Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, a collection of embodied poetry. . Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads writing and singing retreats. 


5 thoughts on “Eve — By Mary Silwance

  1. I love this poem. It takes me back to a time when I was young. My mom was in the hospital after having surgery. My aunt, a beauty operator, decided to give me a permanent, even though my hair was naturally curly. I was too young to object. When I went to visit my mom, she almost had a stroke when she saw me. She was extremely angry that my aunt had messed with my hair.

  2. Dear Mary,
    I do remember reading this poem when it first came out. When I saw it tonight when I searched your name I was delighted that it was yours because I like it very much. You have a skill that I find so attractive in a poet — the use of strong verbs that creates magic as I imagine the movement in my mind. Really nice to meet you.

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