November 2017 Winner

Rhinoceros Skin

Shaunna Harper

She beams,
and I hate every one of her lines.
The ones around the eyes,
especially, with their soliloquies of struggle and strife.
Her hands, once a boxer’s
or a dinner lady’s, now crumpled
and puckered like balls of hated paper.

A sixth, seventh swollen knuckle,
clenched into feeble fist,
a fist that once strangled obnoxious teenage hair
and stroked feverish babies to sleep.
Rhinoceros skin, a lion’s heart
and a skeletal core. Emptied
of seeds, nuclei and bile,
just an old haunting ground
where ghosts and the wind
come to chatter.