Self-portrait as an adult

Carolina Abdo

This poem was inspired by Kayo Chingonyi’s “Self-Portrait as a Garage Emcee”


Gazing up, in wonder, at the top shelf,

up at the painting, up at my mum, up at my sister,

my brother and dad.

The strain in my neck starts to sting and ring

and it rattles through my spine.

After gawking up for so long the sting

morphs into want and longing to be like them.

An adult, more mature, more grown-up.

This familiar longing and want envelopes me like a shroud.

This shroud clings and clutches onto me.


Red lights glimmer as they walk on lackadaisically.

My twinkle toes paint a lost and forgotten path, as I run to catch up.

But my little hand stays safely imprisoned in my mum’s hand.

Instead, I look forward, I am looking from so far behind

that the strain in my neck subsides but the sting is still

prominently polluting my mind.

Their longer legs, their fuller chests,

their natural bravado and confident poise

floats like a fog back to where I stand, delicate and powerless.


As time stood still, time moved at morph speed.

Adultness lived vicariously through my innocent childhood.

Maturity hurled me forward into an abyss of uncertainty.

Soon my convivial curls drooped into a heap of despondent frizz,

and my healthy baby fat renewed itself as a punching bag.

Soon, boys slipped from sweet to insidious,

And goodnight kisses became more and more nebulous.

Is this what my dreams would unravel to be?


Childhood feels like a distant memory

painting a glistening shield of glass upon my eyes.

The longing for adolescence turns into shade

and the light guiding me begins to fade.

My envision of an adult, pristine and polished,

withers to become a decrepit vision.

Stuck in the mud between crossroads.

The door to adulthood floating right ahead,

no longer too far.

Yet the comfort of youth cradles me,

and I hope that it grapples on to me for a long, long time.

Because I think I want it in my life forever.