Papier Mâché

Elizabeth M. Castillo

                                                      I hate papier mâché 
 the stodge, the sticky remains of the glue the way 
 it gets everywhere, and is always far more
 effort than whatever activity I promised 
 we’d do. I see through its thickness once 
 the mask is shaped and set, and decorated
 in all bright, appropriate colours, though the 
 paint might not be dry yet.
                                                      I’ve seen how they 
 wear it here in Paris, tied with ribbon over 
 rimmed eyes and unrouged lips. Ces 
 masques they look like teachers and nannies, 
 and grannies, and grandpas, and playgroups.
 Surrogates, par dizaine. Beneath the flour and 
 paper there’s so much that mustn’t be seen.
                                                      I made my own when you 
 weren’t looking. Stole a handful of the blasted
 gunk. Smeared my empty face, made an 
 imprint. Then back to our crafts- what fun! I 
 will not let you see the sadness, I promise I 
 will not let it peek through this, I will make 
 this mask into a full-body suit, full-body 
 armour, to protect you both from all this mess.
 Until you’re older, and even then. Little hearts, little 
 hands. Ill-equipped to carry such burdens.
 Just dextrous enough for papier mâché. 

Elizabeth M. Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer, and language teacher. She lives in Paris with her family and two cats. When not writing poetry, she can be found working on her podcast or webcomic, pottering about her garden, or writing a variety of different things under a variety of pen names. She has words in, or upcoming in, Selcouth Station Press, Pollux Journal, Revista Purgante, Fevers of the Mind Press, and Melbourne Culture Corner, Epoch Press, among others.