i am six when i am called fat for the first time.
late spring, snack time at daycare, two oreos on a paper plate.
a still life, if you will: outside the window the peonies are blooming,
so swollen & violent with the fullness of being. i feel overripe,
too soft, like a cosmos-bruised plum from the supermarket clearance.
that afternoon, undeveloped photograph: i brush it off,
laugh & blow a raspberry, eat another oreo just out of spite.
but come night, i cry into my toys’ stuffed bellies: & the shadows develop—
i am eight when i begin romanticizing bags of all sorts:
paper bags, ziploc bags, plastic bags the milky blush of magnolias.
i don’t want to be a body—i want to be a bag.
i want to hold things close in my folds, to gape,
to tip back & swallow the heavens, an atom on a needle-prick. the year of ratty t-shirts & baggy jeans, tangled hair
like chicken nests. i am mud-christened, keep the blisters & scraped knees as a promise of my appetite.
i am ten when i discover what that word means,
something so vicious teachers made us turn in signed permission slips.
we promise not to scream. teacher shoos the boys out of the room
& rolls in the old tv, a woman suddenly illuminated on screen,
the body elongating indefinitely as two panna cotta-breasts emerge.
all of us hold our breaths, transfixed: this is what we could be. girl
?—sphinx, goddess, succubus, cobra lily.
to be thin is to be secretive, saintly, savage, carnivorous—
i am twelve when i lose my period—
that is to say, i’ve inverted your darling dearest rituals, your hunches,
i’ve created beauty from negative space, devoured myself. look, i am two-dimensional & your exercise in linear perspective.
i am the blade at an angle without shadow,
honed myself to a splinter of this emaciated day.
look at me: i am the tightrope for you to teeter between afterlife & art.
but wasn’t beauty always terrifying, the absence of the earthly?
& sculpt my image
i am sixteen when the first streak of dawn returns, moon-haunted,
scathed from the ruins of the bombed cathedral.
a trip to the doctor reveals i’ve gained twenty pounds this year:
see, you’re beautiful just the way you are
but here are the orchids in the waiting room—
i whisper: how does it feel, the loneliness of your bodies
blossoming in the slender stalks? would you have rathered the
sturdy trunks like redwoods, unselfconscious, sawn by the lumbermen?