Spotlight: Earth Mother / Dimensions / Me Versus the Dainties

Earth Mother

My earth mother told me to
rub cocoa butter on my gray
winter legs, and never fake
bake with UV rays. Her skin
is vitavega-flawless, all but
chapped hands from years
working elbow deep in organic
dirt, and nicked from chopping
homegrown beets. She puréed
green beans and carrots for our
baby lips. She pinned cloth
diapers, scrubbed in soaps of
glycerin-scented lavender, rinsed
in a tin pail. She punched down
grainy bread thick enough for
sopping barley soups. Our garage
sale jeans became patchwork quilts
sewn with strips of Daddy’s plaids
and her skirts. Summers we flew
through cattails to reach our secret
swimming hole, then we’d strip
down and skinny-dip, hoping only
crickets and katydids would witness
our flat, bare chests. And if any boys
came along, she’d hear long before.
She’d lift herself out dripping, then
grab our clothes and hide. As they
emerged from underbrush, she’d chase
them away—a crazy mama bear protecting
her den. (But when she grew our hair out long,
we called her Goldilocks.) She taught
us to respect the spirits of the land,
but also love our bodies—drink H2O
aplenty and never give in to tanning beds.


The first, a point.
The second, a shape.
The third, a Toshiba television

viewed with black-rimmed glasses
that are uncool in Basic Training
but enable Bengals from Nature

to leap from the screen and into
your bowl of Lucky Charms
your heart-rate accelerating

to that danger level, cardio-
attack zone. The fourth, space.
The fifth, time?

The sixth, fractals or spiral-elliptics?
The seventh, possibly the internet
and it’s all a matter of perspective

and subjective, like a variety show
with tone-deaf judges. A banner
of hallucination and your inner Oedipus

punching the King in the mead gut,
landing him somewhere between
‘That’s horrible, absolutely dreadful,’

and ‘I love it. I think you’re a star.’
But the audience is crickets and Mars
doesn’t get Mediacom, though

that’s where Atlantis is, beyond the
Straits of Magellan—a time-traveler—if ever
one lived. And how about Plato? What

does the panel say about Socrates
and his endless patter about caves
and hemlock for the love of Athens.

Because you stand here, in a hall of
mirrors, with Ethos on your back
and Pathos at your side, Logos

hopped the L-train from Brooklyn
back to Cambridge, where most
statesmen are trained in the

finer forms of speech and other
trivial manners. So stand
at Attention and wait for your name

your number your fifteen minutes,
then salute Sophocles and Aristotle
with their punk haircuts and vegan

life choices, their beatnik rap-stylings,
but they’ll never last because it’s
your name lit in 120-volt flash-bulbs

on the Broadway sign. Enjoy
your imminence while it lasts and
Congratulations! you’re going to Vegas

where dreams lie along I-15 like road-kill
and prom dresses, and full dance cards
from Vanity Fair, where Siegfried’s

tigers run a gambling ring. So, bottoms up,
Salud & Shalome. And may luck be a lady
—five dollah for you—our special, tonight.


Me Versus the Dainties

In the third grade we dressed
up as trees. I was a bur oak
in a forest of junipers.
The bur oak doesn’t even
sound pretty—like a pricker
stuck inside your gym sock.
Missouri’s native species
with full, strong branches,
provides plenty of shade.
Junipers—those slender
columns can fit into tight
spaces. In health class, we learned
about body types: ectomorphs
are thin, wiry. Mesomorphs are
muscular, lean. Endomorphs
store fat with ease. Then, there’s
just plain obese. And if 31%
of kids in my state are fat,
why was I the only bur oak?
Grandma talks about girls of
her day. They were dainty.
With hourglass figures—perfect.
Most of them wore Size ZERO, like
that’s even a size? Plates were smaller.
Less sugar. Less fat. More exercise. Frankly,
girls just cared more about appearance.
She says ‘heavy’ girls were called
apples and pears, but those are fruits
which are supposed to be healthy.
She says I’m ‘big-boned.’ But
according to the skeleton diagrams
in my biology book, our bones
are all the same size. Unless you’re
a giant, which I’m not. I’m plush.
I’m fluffy. And grandma wants
to get me on Weight Watchers, as if
she’s not already eyeing everything
I eat. She says her friends took water pills
to rid their bodies of excess fluids.
Isn’t it bad to be dehydrated? I heard
a story: someone left a bottle of weight-loss
pills in a windowsill and they turned into
worms. We give Moxie, our basset, pills
to get rid of her worms. I see on the news,
drugs that could kill you, or make you wish
you were dead. But at least you’d be skinny!
Grandma tells me about a guy—he had to be
buried in a grand piano box, he was too big
for a coffin. Carnival-goers paid admission to
peak at the freak-show fat ladies. Recently, doctors
did gastric bypass on a man that weighed almost
a ton. Then, they removed enough skin to make
a whole new person. None of them had learned
how to count calories. Our health teacher preaches
against anorexia and bulimia, the dangers of binging
and purging. But I can count the ribs of the Calvin
Klein girl—twelve on each side. And the fat lady
sang, but didn’t make it past round two, despite
the judges saying she had a beautiful voice. So,
what should I do about my heavyweight boxing
dad and our high-carb dinners? And what does it
even mean when labels say ‘partially hydrogenated?’
And why do I feel like the incredible human balloon
in a world where everyone else is shrinking?

Jennifer J. Pruiett-SelbyJennifer J. Pruiett-Selby is a teacher and mother of four (soon to be five), with a Master’s degree in English from Iowa State University. Jennifer currently lives in very rural Iowa where her column {just a word} appears in the local newspaper. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Red River Review, Matter Monthly, Leaves of Ink, Four and Twenty, Touch and The Voices Project.