Girlhood

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,
girl
_

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
?—
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?
i am
destroying,
destroyed: starved
gasping body
to bone
go inward
& 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

.

perfectly healthy

.

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?

Lydia Wei is a seventeen-year old writer and artist from Gaithersburg, MD. Her work has been previously recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Young Poets Network. She volunteers with Writopia Lab DC to promote creative writing for children, and with Arts on the Block to create mosaics and public art installations for her community.