Self commandments become etched in breath on a bathroom mirror
as a girl with yarn hair hugs a too thin waist, watching intently the way her spine,
bent in, spun with twine would poke through sallow skin.
I guess this is what you get when you count your blessings and calories.
String doll, I wrote this to show you the waking nightmares of
what you can’t see happening to the temple that is your body,
not open for reconstruction.
You can’t cover your tracks with these ‘half truths’ spun into your arms
which tell a story of a cold scale which you use to weigh yourself like ham at a deli.
Not when you shout it from rooftops that you’re too fat to be beautiful.
And, get this, you always wear your progress like some sort of sick badge of self mutilation, another day which you mark on the calendar,
one day, two days, three days,
and you haven’t eyed that cupboard that you ate out of like a pig
from a trough all those years ago.
That’s your success story, you say, that you were able to overcome fatness
and become an example for all those girls with thinspirations as high as skyscrapers.
You break your mother’s weepy heart with the constant stream of questioning
that leaves your yarn lips: ‘Mama, I know you’re tired from working all day,
and you’ve heard this a thousand times before,
but when will I be beautiful like you?
When will I stop hating what I see in a reflection? When will I be myself?’
But, while you break the hearts of some and inspire others, you cannot deny
that your life is a balancing act, a battlefield where the matter between life and death
is held up between a thigh gap
and the way your mother prays, tear-struck
for the day when you’ll stop bowing down to a porcelain bowl.
No insurance for that.
So, follow Vanity Fair like the bible
and feel the acid in your lungs as salvation for the ugliness
you feel in an unwound heart.
Because you know you’re coming undone, don’t you?
You’re unraveling and fraying and I want to sew you back together,
yet I know only you have the needle and thread.
String doll, please, take a moment to look inside yourself
and see that your number on a scale is not a judgement call,
don’t feel the guilt of being alive.
Strive for little victories.
Let your thighs hug
because your body is trying to show that it loves you when they touch. Count the days of hair regrowth,
the way unstaggered breathing feels hot in your hands.
Your worth is not held up with each measurement and calories counted, you’re blinded by button eyes and a brain that wants to eat you alive,
but I promise you, I’m your best ally, no strings attached.
Yes, I know, I understand that this meal doesn’t seem at all appetizing
and you’d rather feel the emptiness roar like a train leaving a station
from your groaning stomach.
But you are dying, and that’s not a question.
So, next time, when you ask your mother about diet pills and trivial beauty, bite your tongue like the breakfast she makes you
when you rise with the sun in the morning.
Because your story of success is not when hungry is your success story.