Collateral Damage

Author’s note: This is the poem I used for my Portrait of Me presentation. This is also a poem that I wrote and posted on my personal blog at the beginning of July following a very rough period of time in which I realized that I had no idea who I am without the characters I play. This happened after One Act ended, and I think was partially amplified because I hadn’t let myself ‘mourn’ the loss of Frankenstein yet. As strange as it sounds, the characters that I play are integral parts of me and so when a show is over, I feel like I have lost that part of myself and must let myself heal from that loss. 

What was different about this time, however, was that Frankenstein truly was me. She lived in me, she breathed in me, she spoke in me–it is incredible how important something becomes to you when it has lived inside of you. I woke up to Frankenstein’s voice in my head, I wore things that I knew she would like, I spoke in a way that was unique only to her. I knew her words backwards and forwards, knew the way she walked, the way she cried, the way she was when she got drunk. I knew everything about her and she knew everything about me.

She completed me. And without her, I felt so impossibly, undeniably, awfully empty. 

Because, the thing about Frankenstein was that she was obsessive; she slaved away for months and months, trying to create something beautiful–trying to create life! She lived only to be a vessel for her passion, and I am very much the same. Because, in same way that she obsessed over her creation, I obsessed over mine; I was Frankenstein and the play was my monster. Every moment of every day was spent thinking about my role–about how (if?) she loved, how she felt, how she was as a child, the manner in which she spoke–or about the play–what music suited it and what music didn’t, costuming, lines, memorization, character work, relationships–all of it, everything, was devoted to that play.

Everything inside of me was given to that play.

And I think that was a big part of the residual problem–that so much of myself was put into that role that when it was over, there really was nothing left. (Commence rapid heart pounding here.) Nothing left in my heart. Nothing left in my head. Nothing left in my soul.

There was nothing left for myself.

I think the loss of Frankenstein, as well as the things that took place in the weeks after it, served to reveal to me a problem that I had been both unaware of and running from, for a very long time. The problem being that I didn’t know who I was along with the fear that finding out would make it worse because what if I didn’t like whatever I found?

There are some things about yourself that you can’t just ‘un-know’. I’ve learned that. And there are some things about yourself that you can’t change. I’ve learned that too.

The poem below, entitle ‘Collateral Damage’ was written at the height of that–at a time when I was on the cusp of knowing and not knowing and at a time where I was terrified to find out. It’s like I have always been waiting for this part of myself that never comes, and in writing this poem, I realized that it never will. And instead, I am left with this other. . .Thing. This Thing inside of me that I have unknowingly been trying to drown for the last seventeen years, and the Thing inside of me that is ultimately more myself than I am. 

I think that this poem was my way of trying to make sense of It–the Thing that wanders aimlessly through my being in search of a way out. It was also the most honest I have ever been in my writing, in terms of what my truth is. And even though a simple poem will never be able to fix this Being that is broken inside of me, it made me aware of It’s existence, and of the fact that no amount of running from myself, or hiding from myself in the skins of other people, will make me less. . . me. 

Collateral Damage


when i was 11


when i got home

from school

i would lay down

on my bedroom floor

and close my eyes

trying to remain

as still as possible

so maybe

i could trick my body

into believing

it wasn’t alive anymore.


i’d hold my breath

until i could hear

my heartbeat in my ears

and the old flourish

of my lungs

begging me

breathe breathe breathe

and just when

i was going to do it

my mind always begged

don’t don’t don’t.


i used to stay like that

for hours.

hanging in an in between

of being half

of one thing

and half

of something else


i guess i was

half alive

and half dead.

half hoping to die

and half not knowing why.


and when my mother

would find me

laying on the floor

of my bedroom

blue in the face

she would ask me

what i was doing

so i would tell her

i was practising.

practicing? she’d ask

practicing what?


i never did have

the heart

to tell her

i was practicing to die.

there are just

some things

mothers can never



you see

i keep trying to kill

some distant

part of myself.

something that has been

so suppressed and neglected

that i’ve forgotten

to recognize

its shadowed face

as it wanders aimlessly

through the hallows

of my soul.


every now and then

i feel it

thrashing around

inside of me

desperately trying

to claw it’s way

up my windpipe

and out of my mouth.

cause once it has

torn my insides

to shreds

in its urgency

for escape

i feel the weight of it

sitting on my tongue

trapped in a bastille

of lips and teeth

with it’s haunches

tensed and ready

to spring over

the precipice

of my jaw

should i talk.


i suppose that’s why

i go so quiet


cause if i open

my mouth

to speak

i know it will

come blooming out

of me

like some ancient hurt

that i didn’t realize

i had until

i felt the pain

of it

sluggishly ripping through

the centre of my being.


years of forgetting

to acknowledge it

have made this thing

inside of me

something so

intangibly real.

and now that

i’ve felt it

stirring within me

i don’t know

how much longer

i will be able

to refuse its



it’s like

when you walk

into a party

and there’s somebody there

you slept with


when you were

a little sad

and very drunk.

and you just want

to forget about them

and forget the way

you woke up

next to them

with a hangover

and forget how

you can’t really remember

the details

of your drunken


cause you were too sad

and too drunk

to do anything but forget.


and you can’t decide

which feels worse.

the drinking

or the sad

or the seduction

or everything all at once.


and when you’re

at this party

trying to forget

that you ever

slept with them

in the first place

you can feel them

staring at you

with every breath

you breathe

cause they didn’t

forget you.


and you do


in your power

to try to avoid them

but suddenly

its like they

are a magnet

for your eyes

and no matter

where you look

your gaze always

falls on them

so you can’t pretend

it never happened anymore

cause the more

you look at them

the more you remember

and the more you remember

the more you want

to forget.


things like how

you can only ever

sleep with people

when you get drunk


how dirty

you feel

after waking up

next to that faceless man

who was just

a convenient vessel

for your need

to destroy yourself


i can’t even

look at myself

in the mirror anymore

cause i can’t stand

the sight of the scars

bright and white

that stand up

from the flat terrain

of my skin

like little tombstones

in an old graveyard.


they each represent

some part of me

that got in the way

as i tried to kill

that distant thing

that ambles hollowly

through the mausoleum

of my soul

in search

of a way out.


i guess

this body of mine

really is just the collateral

to a damage

that goes far beyond

being simply skin deep.


i read once

that when a person

is possessed by the devil

the priests

mutilate the body

of the host

cause when the body

gets too weak

the devil can’t

live in it anymore.


maybe that’s where

i got it from.


cause the more

i feel it

moving within me

the more i feel the need

to kill it

and i don’t know why.

i don’t think

it’s evil


it’s more like

some small

lost child

wandering round

in search of its mother

only its mother didn’t

want it

cause it looked

a little different

from the other children

and all it wants now

is to be loved

and nurtured the way

it never was

cause it is more

pure and innocent

than anything else

in this world

it was cursed

to live in.


people are afraid

of things like that

you know.

things too good

and pure

for them to understand.


the messed up thing is

i feel half crazy

most of the time

cause i don’t even know

what it is

i’m trying to kill.

i only know it’s there

and it is more myself

than i am.


Collateral Damage

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2 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Dear Hope,

    I have to say with honesty, I’ve never gotten so emotionally attached to a school project until I heard you present. Your “Portrait of Me” presentation extended to the boundaries in which it was confined, and I think that’s what made it so memorable. In your introduction, you talk about the connections within you and Frankenstein, “She completed me. And without her, I felt so impossibly, undeniably, awfully empty.” These sentences were so raw and profoundly insightful that while reading it, you awakened my own monster – the monster of curiosity. One factor I loved in your poem was how you were able to come in a full circle – the topics at the beginning and end were very much related, while in the middle, there was always a underlying relation to the main theme. Your stylistic diction choices such as, “ambles hollowy” or “stirring within me”, evoked strong pathos. In addition, the format of the poem itself is very pleasing. The spaces that you left behind certain words to start a new line matched the tone you produced within that passage, for instance when you are talking about more hurtful topics, the pacing becomes slower and more mellow. When you talk about “heated” topics, the pacing and space placement becomes quicker and fast paced.

    To add on personally, a creative touch could have been the manipulation of the stanza placements. Perhaps to move a stanza on the right or center to create more aesthetic unity and visual curiosity.

    In addition, I’m just curious as to your reasoning behind the uncapitalized “i”. I know this is something I do a lot within my own writing to produce a softer effect; for capital letters are very jarring and “in-your-face”. Is that also the reasoning behind it in this case?

    Judy Gu

    1. Judy,

      Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to read my blog! To answer your question–yes, the lack of capitals is because I have always had a personal vendetta against them. They make everything look too harsh and sharp and no capitals are so much softer and prettier. I have been using this in my writing probably since grade 10, and very rarely get away with it because Hunni usually penalizes me for it, however poetry is one of the things for which it is excusable.



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