IN OTHER NEWS, WATER IS WET.
“Meet Yourself In The Mirror" by Ashley Wylde
Tell me what you love.
If I look you in your eyes and ask you what you love,
the answers will likely roll off of your tongue.
You love pizza and crafting and roller coasters and poetry.
You love to read, you love to write, you love birds, music,
tattoos, obscure documentaries, and the colour of the sun,
filtered through the smoke of a wildfire.
You love your boyfriend. Your mom. Your brother. Your sister.
Your daughter. Your best friend. Your dog. Your grandmother.
Your cousin. Your aunt. Your wife.
You love pastries and foreign languages and folk music,
and the way it feels to itch a bug bite.
You love early mornings and late nights
and study breaks and hugs and sentimental cards on your birthday.
How long do you think you could go on and on before you said,
“I love myself”?
Most people go a lifetime.
I used to think I was invincible, like most young people do.
And my grandmother, with a smile sewn of wisdom, told me if I really want the truth,
go stand in front of a mirror. She told me:
“Meet yourself in the mirror, make a date of it.
Look closely, and even if it’s strange, keep on looking
until your eyes became skies with constellations of light,
and the everything else falls away.
Examine every inch of your face, and feel however you feel about it.
But be thorough. See even the things you don’t like to see.
And when you know your face like you’d know a friend’s, meet your eyes again.
And if it’s awkward or forced, do the best that you can,
and with all the sincerity you can muster, say, ‘I love you.’”
I thought it was stupid, and I told her that right there,
but for some reason I still crept into the bathroom late that night
to rendezvous with my eyes.
It was surprisingly awkward. I was awkwardly shy, and I kept my gaze turned down,
like I was looking at myself for the first time.
The flutter in my stomach, I met my own stare,
and even though everything in me protested,
I let out a half breath that carried an almost inaudible whisper of the words
“I love you”.
And then I cried uncontrollably because I knew it wasn’t true.
I stood in that bathroom every night for a year,
and I lied to my eyes until I could rewrite the truth.
When I looked in the mirror for the first time and knew that I loved myself,
I also knew I would never need anything else to survive.
My grandmother knows me, and instead of telling, she showed me that love is a tree,
and if we don’t grow the roots, we’ll spend our lives collecting dry leaves;
and they’re charming when pressed in books and kept in picture frames
but they don’t grow up to feed our families the way seeds do.
She told me:
“You cannot say, ‘I love you,’ without the implied foundation of, ‘but I love myself, first.’
If you don’t love yourself, every time you have ever said, ‘I love you,’ it was a lie.”
And she was right.
[TW: eating disorders, restriction, calories]
Lily Myers, “Shrinking Woman”
Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles,
over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realised she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.
Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks, the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes.
His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry,
a new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager but my dad reports now “she’s crazy about fruit”.
It was the same with his parents.
As my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled, to red round cheeks, rotund stomach.
And I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” he asks, laughing,
as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say: We come from difference, Jonas.
You have been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in.
You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
I learned to absorb. I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters.
And I never meant to replicate her,
but spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits.
That’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit,
weaving silence in between the threads which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house. Skin itching, picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped,
like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips,
from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark,
a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many,
how much space she deserves to occupy.
Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
and I don’t want to do either any more
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the [inaudible] requirements for the sociology major
because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza.
A circular obsession I never wanted but inheritance is accidental.
Still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, “My daughter got into Yale”
with, “Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day”.
|—||Kait Rokowski, “A Good Day”|
Don’t worry about your body.
It isn’t as small as it once was,
But honestly, the world needs more of you.
You look in the mirror
like you’ve done something wrong,
But you look perfect.
Anyone who says otherwise is telling a lie
to make you feel weak.
And you know better.
You’ve survived every single day,
for as long as you’ve been alive.
You could spit fire if you wanted.
|—||"For My Mother When She Doesn’t Feel Beautiful"|
"A Queen Loses Her Crown When She Loses Her Virginity"
by Kai Davis
We’ve learned to call Queens outside of their real titles.
Girls became ‘Jawns’, ‘Jawns’ became ‘bitches’,
and bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.
Well, whose trick was that?
Is it a coincidence that the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene
share the same name, but not the same crown?
These girls have no crown.
Just scalp-pats and ass-taps.
They say “Hit it from the back”.
Well, I couldn’t look a Queen in the eye either.
So we’ll just pretend they’re all animals.
Because devotion is harder than disconnection.
Someone disconnect the throne from the seat of their elastic denim.
Beat them till they bounce back like rubber-banded bimbos.
Tell them bend over.
Can you wave hello to hell?
Can you smell the burning embers?
Does it smell like sulphur?
Does it smell like dirty twat?
You know, dirty twats get swatted into filthy gutters.
We’ve got to get our minds out the gutter.
Gotta get these hoes off the track.
Gotta get this glue out this trap.
Those sticky, Nicki Minaj impersonators,
those self-proclaimed “Bad Bitches”, “Hood Bitches”, “Five-star Bitches”.
They disrespect the galaxies because heaven has no place for whores.
So where will they go?
Sexual freedom isn’t acceptable for women.
Due to the misogyny massaged into men’s brains.
A Queen loses her crown when she loses her virginity.
And a Queen becomes a ‘bitch’ when she likes it.
by Carol Ann Duffy
Teach me, he said -
we were lying in bed -
how to care.
I nibbled the purse of his ear.
What do you mean? Tell me more.
He sat up and reached for his beer
I can rip out the roar
from the throat of a tiger,
or gargle with fire
or sleep one whole night in the Minotaur’s lair,
or flay the bellowing fur
from a bear,
all for a dare.
There’s nothing I fear.
Put your hand here -
he guided my fingers over the scar
over his heart,
a four-medal wound from the war -
but I cannot be gentle, or loving, or tender.
I have to be strong.
What is the cure?
He fucked me again
until he was sore,
then we both took a shower.
Then he lay with his head on my lap
for a darkening hour;
his voice, for a change, a soft burr
I could just about hear.
And, yes, I was sure
that he wanted to change,
I was there
So when I felt him soften and sleep,
when he started, as usual, to snore,
I let him slip and slide and sprawl, handsome and huge,
on the floor.
And before I fetched and sharpened my scissors -
snipping first at the black and biblical air -
I fastened the chain to the door.
That’s the how and the why and the where.
Then with deliberate, passionate hands
I cut every lock of his hair.