Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

What's Wrong with Your Face, Evolutionarily Speaking

Eric Paul Shaffer

First, your face, fine, funny or effed-up, is just another splotch
on a blank wall in the unbuilt Halls of Evolution. Look around

            the big blue and green ball that spawned us. These losers
are winners of the human race? These are the fittest? Just say no.
I’m a big fan of Darwin, but I’m ready to vote this stupid species

off the planet. Every time I finally open the yogurt again and see
that fuzzy, dusty ring of black and green on the curdy white curve,

I think hard about our ancestors, those ill-informed, bug- and grub-
eating, pit-scratching knuckle-draggers emerging from the half-lit
foulness of our origins. But you know, even naked and all, at least

they are noble enough to ignore a lack of clothes, spiffy haircuts,
make-up, piercings, and body art. The countenance of each hairy

little link gazes heroically at the horizon while we stop in every hall
            and downtown storefront to glance into each mirrored pane
of plate glass to inspect our facades through painted letters. Look

at that lopsided nose, those perfectly spaced, mismatched eyes,
that weirdly wide mouth of gapped and tilting teeth. God must be

an evil, little micro-manager to dis-grace each of us with that one
strange stroke we can hate about ourselves. The results often look
            so unintended we wish to call them accidents, but we can’t.

You can blame no one for yourself any more than you can blame
a dropped fire hose for gushing enthusiastically and dangerously

in all directions under the pressure of a further splashy demonstration
of the urge to come forth. You can wonder why you’re so beautiful
or I’m so ugly, but in the short and long run, life, in the grittiest sense,

goes on, as do landslides or tsunami, avalanches or extinction events,
and we all know disasters bring us together, so shut up, and kiss me.


Eric Paul Shaffer is the author of seven poetry volumes, including Even Further West, A Million-Dollar Bill, Lahaina Noon, Portable Planet, RattleSnake Rider, and Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen. More than 500 of his poems have appeared in reviews in 12 countries. Winner of Hawai’i’s Elliot Cades Award for Literature, he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College.