This poem is driving me CRAZY. It's been wanting to be written for weeks now, and has been written very slowly. But I think it's done. I think the flow of it needs a little work, but I'm done with it for now. Plus, this is the second night I've stayed up past midnight working on it. It needs to be done. For now.
Everybody's got a poem about their bodies. There are so many poems about bodies. We all get caught up and self-absorbed that way, don't we? I've written many poems about my body, or parts of it...most of which I don't share. But here's this one. It's just another body poem.
I can't decide on a title, because I suck at titles. I could go with a simple "This Body." Or "Truthsong." Or "Crucifixion." I think I'll go with the one I chose, though. For now, anyway.
Or, I could make it long and complicated, like: "Poem to my colleagues on why I don't engage in your negative body-talk."
[Content note: eating disorders, sexual assault]
When women lament their stomach
their right big toe
this body rises, indignant.
This body balks at diet plans.
She will not discuss weight loss goals
or curse the gym time it takes to reach them,
she cares not about:
her muscle mass
or the calories in oranges.
This body stretches into downward dog.
She bows in recognition of scarred flesh.
Broken heartstrings. Skin burning for love.
She knows her muscles ache
to remind her they exist:
this body begs to be nurtured
in ways this world forgets to name.
This body will not shame herself.
This body knows the fear of disappearing.
She has seen beautiful fade to bare:
it's a fucking privilege to shame your body
without the weight of others' bones on your flesh.
Tell me how to hate your body as you check her chest for breath.
Laugh about diets, your thighs, your ass,
when you've seen how body eats muscle 'cause there's nothing left.
Tell me how to shame your body when you've thanked god over ounces,
or sat holding a body's relic of hate's aftermath.
Tell me how to shame it then.
Tell me how to hate it.
Tell me how to love it.
This body has felt eyes and whistles rise like drawn weapons up her neck.
Has been every man's challenge when she closes her doors.
This body has known dark-alley hands with heavy touch,
beer-soaked mouth on lips and flesh,
back on brick,
back on brick,
lungs that beg for air.
This body has known bruise, bite, bleeding
the empty quake of nothing that erupts into emptiness,
this body has known broken.
I don't know how to praise her.
Was not taught to sing her hymns or speak her gospel,
was trained to hide her goodness, her wholeness, her flesh.
I wear my bodyshame like crucifixion.
Each nail an emblem
of how Woman I can be:
I never learned this body holy
but I know her temple is cells and breath.
Her deity, Truth, worships at her feet
that bless this holy ground,
sing her holy name,
her truthsong is love, only and over again, love,
for she who has carried me through.
She who is sweat and tightness and stretch.
She who knows how to woman,
to open, to strong,
to soften, to power, to cry
to close, to quake,
to sing, and sing, and sing...
How can I shame this warrior-goddess body
who has only ever wanted
to love me