body.hate

it took me 40 years to learn
that my body is not my enemy
but my oldest, longest-suffering friend,
that my being fat doesn’t mean
I don’t deserve love or am
any less beautiful, that
when you love someone,
when their soul speaks to yours
and you can see it clearly,
unclouded by your own doubts and fears,
the vessel they are currently incarnating
becomes sanctified by its beauty –
like a candle holder,
illuminated from within – that
my body is always worthy of love
because I’m in it.

I didn’t learn that by myself,
many people taught me these things;
I first learned to love myself
by seeing myself through the eyes
of those that loved me,
and I’m still learning these lessons,
still on the path.

so
I understand.
you aren’t there yet.

I wish I could be the one to teach you,
but even if you can’t/won’t let me –
because my body reminds you too painfully
of your own abundance, because
the idea of us together
probably makes you feel sick,
because the only way
you can imagine yourself
as sexually viable
is if a thin person wants you,
because the idea that I could be fat
and still be attractive
is scarily close to
the same being true
for you –
it’s all right.
I hope someday you get there.
you deserve to be free
of body hate, too.
we all do.

the weight you need to shed
is not measured in pounds of flesh
but in the self-hatred
you’ve been carrying
your entire life.
let that burden go.
put it down, take it off, release it.
you don’t need it.

I’ll be waiting for you
at the pass on the top of this
mountain of self-respect.
the air is thin up here,
but we don’t have to be.
it’s very clear, heady, transcendent.
I can see for miles
and we don’t need our baggage
where we’re going.

bonsai

twisted, constricted
bent every which way, but
still striving towards the light.
I’ve been sadly warped by you, mama,
and never learned how
to straighten up and grow right.

what does sunlight look like
when it’s not filtered through glass?
what does love look like
when it’s not strained through an agenda?

trained and pruned,
grafted and transplanted
all that artifice and care
just to make me look like
everyone else.

the wires mustn’t show.
don’t look at the gardener
behind the curtain.
you wouldn’t like what you see.

miniaturized. my need for growth
was used against me.
no matter how hard I tried,
I couldn’t expand beyond
the hard limits
imposed by the tiny pot.
if left alone, I would have sprawled
over ten times that surface area,
run rampant, kudzu-like,
over all your proprieties.

the pathos of things
like trees tortured to stay tiny
but look like their normal size parents.
if this is what your empathy looks like,
spare me.
I’d rather have been raised by wolves
than oppressed by your idea of civilization.

pyre

I’ll be the one to light
your funeral pyre.
my heart is already aflame,
steady as a sanctuary lamp,
it won’t take much
to set the rest of me alight.

if I do it quickly enough,
no one will be able
to stop me.

maybe once you’re
beyond the veil, you’ll see
how pure and steadfast
my light was.
maybe then you’ll wish
you had let me love you.

starfish

All day I struggle in sunlight
against circling shark-memory,
and then, exhausted by the effort
of fortifying myself against it,
sink unguarded into a thick and navy sleep
where the tenderness of its attack surprises me,
the way it gapes and silently rushes,
disguised as dream,
through those cold waters.

So we open sweetly into salt-dark sleep
like a starfish’s clenched hand relaxing,
only to be undermined by that which we fought
so violently and so steadily
during the calm sad waking hours,
when waves like light flickered over
the rippled floor, and the pale
bubble of surface above seemed so high,
so out of reach.

the glass sellers

Venetian glass-sellers:
the blond boy, crewcut and Germanically
ruddy, bulbous-eyed,
leaning back in his chair,
tilting his head at you,
the glass girl, fifteen or less,
long brown limbs
loosely arranged like straight-
blown rods in a vase,
your almost stylish red-brown hair
swinging downward as you look into
your red-and-blue lap,
though his washed bottle
ones are fixed on you
unremittingly, as if bending
the force of a will upon you,
and I sense some strange coercion there,
some resignation on your part,
unwilling forgiveness –
though what this sixteen-year-old
cocky one could have done is beyond me,
unless it’s having been blown wrong –
and as you stand up
he takes hold of your brown
grasshopper arm, pulling,
and you just stand there
for the minute it takes me
to walk around the side of the building
to where I can look back
through the arch and continue spying,
your sad and disbelieving
dark-amber head
tilted as if to say don’t look at me that way,
and then I witness
the slow dissolution of your resistance,
(that weakened ache in the bone
that I know so intimately)
sinking forward and down to
an elbowy, reserved embrace
that nevertheless goes on for
quite a while – I look
back fully five minutes later
and you are still frozen
in that cold position
you are fused, the dark glass of your hair
flowing into the glazed
white of his shirt.

The North Ship

(with apologies to Philip Larkin)

Polar as an iceberg: with just such a bony,
shuddering dryness I might creak
my way to shore — only to boomerang,
sickeningly, with all the wretched persistence
of this numb season.
It has its arctic beauty — unimaginable cold
as the expanse of space, the chill, lacy halo
framing the moon, frozen tree branches encased in ice,
silvery, edged, fragile and deadly as the Snow Queen’s palace —
but this ship’s an icebreaker,
darkening, avenging, toothed and brutal;
it bites into the stilled wheel of the compass
without propelling it. My nights are stark,
but bitterly valid.

Am I a North Ship?
Steeled and calm, signally icebound,
avoiding all encounters, perpetually self-aligned
to the red thorn of the polar thumb,
the darkest, coldest point of it,
leading in this direction:

There is no north but North,
no star but that fixed and oldest one
that bluely draws on the frost-bite sail;
that with its very silence commands
some cold complicity.