Is the state of the world getting to you? Express yourself in a poem. Take your lead from any news story and send your poems to

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A short-lived tyranny

Last week she was a pop up girl,
pouting prettily by a brand new car;
next week she might be tossing seaweed in a wok
for customers who idle by the counter, staring at the pretty
in the poster behind her.

The big chill
of realization, swarming tremors,
as she hands over their wrapped takeaway,
fast food, like fast beauty,
gobbled right before her eyes.

The once-pretty won’t be able to say
how she recognised the moment
– perhaps it’ll be a quivering eyelid,
where once there was covetous attention –
that shudders her through the thin door to silicon.

Fat sucked and re-injected
in the nick of time, she thinks,
needle threading her skin, erasing flaws,
stalling fine lines that may be
blurring her future.

The man with a scalpel in his hand is god.
Pretties face their new Dorian Grey illusions,
poised beside each other in a startling symmetry;
this engineered beauty necessary, they are told,
for wealth and sexual power, recognition.

But there’s a risk in seeking
cosmetic artifice, believing the promises
of counterfeit consultants; the danger
of the arrow that may pierce mistakenly,
prematurely, call time.

© Afric McGlinchey

The cost of being 'pretty' in Thailand

Afric McGlinchey won the prestigious Hennessy Poetry Award (2011). Her début collection,
The lucky star of hidden things, was published in 2012 by Salmon Poetry


  1. wonderful piece Afric, the term pretties... its so chilling, and that sentence - The man with a scalpel in his hand is god. The poor girl.

    1. Thanks Niamh! Yeah, I was so shocked and saddened by this story...such pressure on them. And she was only 32. Ridiculous that they would think that's an age that requires surgery, regardless of the whole ethics scandal, those charlatans.

  2. and that man with the scalpel also wields the power to perpetuate the ugly fact that pretty may marry a rich man.

    1. Well, turns the myth into fact, by making 'beauty' ostensibly accessible to those who can pay.

  3. How sad that these girls put shoyld their lives at risk for this. You have quite rightly used the power of poetry to highlight this dreadful practice. Your final lines sent a shiver.

    1. Thanks Nell. Certainly reminded me that the only surgery I'll contemplate in my life, is the essential kind.

  4. Thought at first that this was about something else completely (Simon Cowell as the man wielding the scalpel) till I read the report. Though it more or less boils down to the same thing.
    I think the term "pretties" must resonate from the Wizard of Oz and that's why its quite chilling.
    Good stuff as usual Afric. Do you ever write anything sub-standard?

    1. Ah, Peter, you always say the sweetest things! Yes, it was the use of the word 'pretties' that made the story so chilling for me. Categorizing them like that. That box they feel so trapped in.