“Medusa Smile” by Victoria Mbabazi

Second prize poetry winner of the Hart House Literary Contest in 2020 was Victoria Mbabazi, a UTSC graduate currently living in Brooklyn, New York.

This is what the judges – poets Prathna Lor, Kate Cayley and Ingrid Ruthig – said about Mbabazi’s poem:

“‘Medusa Smile’ is a love poem that upends the love poem. Deftly negotiating tricky and very familiar territory with an impressive, tongue-in-cheek command of romantic cliché, the poem manages to combine erotic frankness, genuine pain, surprising wit and deep feeling.”

Medusa Smile 

by Victoria Mbabazi

I’d hoped she’d fall in love 

in my cleavage or 

at the curve of my hips

I’ve been told that’s

how it happens you 

fall in love fucking 

that is when the choir 

rises and the credits

roll happily ever

whatever the fuck 

I don’t fall in love I 

fall in anxiety I 

crash watching her 

make mac and cheese 

wondering what key 

the echo in the back 

of my mind is in  

what makes me feel like 

I’m dying when

she looks at me like 

my heart is in her 

teeth knowing I’ll

bleed out happily 

altogether I can’t 

be still for a girl 

that isn’t mine and

yet she looked at me 

wolf in love’s clothing 

like I was all hers God

I believed her too

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