I do look quite the gentleman, standing tall before the mirror,
with hair combed stiff and shining, brand-new cufflinks.

It is only a shame that at this age
no perfect physiognomy nor well-trimmed clothing
can actually be beauty,
but merely a measurable, competitive resource
towards a most inevitable marriage,
devoid completely of love.

The real beauty of childhood
has slipped through my fingers.
No more playing, no more freedom;
I must pass down this terrible responsibility
to a being whom I will ruin with expectations
and be envious of for as long as I live.

And soon my face will wilt with wrinkles
and become dark and gray with exhaustion,
as I work for a family I must convince myself to love,
continuing through life only out of obligation
and an inexplicable need to see if my child will be less disappointing than I.

And when Death kisses my blinded eyes shut,
I will have achieved nothing of personal value;
having devoted myself wholly to what the world has expected of me,
unable, in the time I have been gifted, to have made any important impact.

~Caitlyn, Year 11, Paralowie R–12

Stud box, History Trust of South Australia