paean for the body

posted in: Poem | 0

achy, sore, content, energized, strong, weak,
worn out, too big or too small, caged–
jammed in too tight denim or afloat in clothes
that once fit. perched on wiggly jiggly
high heels or braced squarely by boots.
pinched, prodded, evaluated,
sized up, found wanting or passable,
given a clean bill or admitted to the hospital.

she’s a chip we can cash in if we need to,
before the expiration date when she’s removed
from the shelf of desirables. exploiting her
through paid sex, married sex, stripping, or cocktail
waitressing are all ways to make a living.
she could be the ugly girl next door
or the kid brother you resented having to take care of.

often, she’s the one we know best and like least,
having counted the grey hairs, glared at the moustache,
applied cream to the wrinkles, glowered at the flesh
spilling over the waistband, mourned the nose’s tilt
or the way one eye’s smaller than the other,
especially when tired. we think the messages
we send her go nowhere, like letters
children mail to santa claus or expletives
flung at the tv. we only wish she’d listen
and want less or want more, not grumble about
hunger or exercise, stop saving those fat cells
for the lean days our brains don’t anticipate, try
harder to build muscle. if we eat sweets without
sugar or fat she can’t process, we might
outsmart her. the funny thing we know
without knowing is that
really there’s nothing but her–
to say we need her doesn’t quite capture it–
so of course she hears everything.


“paean for the body” was first published in Gertrude.

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