Undefeated

I knew my limits were met when my father tutted and said

You’re an ordinary girl

I wish you looked like your mother

When heron jawed teacher said

You’re an average student

Students with learning disorders should drop out early

When razor hipped boyfriend said

You’re the last choice

I settled for you because everyone else said no

When porn-on-his-desktop boss said

You’re not qualified enough

I keep you down because you won’t ask for a raise, you don’t have the guts

When mint-chewing doctor said

You’re too old to have a baby anyway

What’s one more womb between friends? Unmarried girls are dispensable

I did not crack under the weight

For what doesn’t smother best intentions may

Lend you a fist of iron

Sometimes our weaknesses serve us better than our strengths

My families indifference taught the rule of self sufficiency

I didn’t die of neglect despite best attempts

You shouldn’t have had children but I’m here and I’ll endure without your permission

My limit knew no limit

When I graduated top of my year and slammed the medal on teachers desk

You ruin kids right to have dreams with your judgement

My limit knew no limit

When I told him his actions would come full circle

He’s divorced and not allowed to see his kids, his pattern ran him ragged

My limit knew no limit

When my boss grabbed my butt and I blew the whistle to his superior

I stayed and he resigned, don’t think he’ll be pinching anymore asses

My limit knew no limit

When the grief of being childless led me to embrace others

Try, try, try, turn the negative into a way of transformation

What does kill you can save you

My limit knew no limit

Had no end

Because I am a woman who has survived many scars and

I still stand

I knew my limits were

Undefeated

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Balance

She put on her outside skin

and when the door closed behind her

she took it off

gratefully and with a

long sigh

it was only with you

she showed her true self

in its imperfect and

wanting state of longing

it was only you

she let turn the key

release those parts of her

she kept confined

standing as red as

a roadside poppy

her legs crumbling for want

her hands needing to reach out

she needed you to

claim that offered fruit

realizing the chance she took

how it was not

a natural or easy decision

but one that came slowly and

years in the making

for even girls with redolent hearts

can hold themselves

corseted against passion

waiting out the corruption

for that one person

capable of reaching their center

you

were given that chance

she felt the licking carpet fibers

the sweat on her lower back

how her once empty belly, was now

full

her breasts, heavy with the need

to be drunk from

until she was light again and

emptied of her desire

burning her up

as she swayed in your hesitation

for you did not know

the gift of her she gave

or why

ordinary responses were anathema

in that moment paused

between heaven and

earth

When we are supposed to laugh

She runs her hands along the grain, movement a stain

hearing rust loosen and turn to red and green exquisitely

grief lies her head slower in time

perhaps given enough, doors opening to learn

why she holds her hand over her mouth so long

as her sisters, once younger and afraid, nesting behind her skirts

flew from their hinged cages, they had less fear than she

though in truth it is not fear that stays her hand

but a lament she was born with, hearing in her crib, the press of tragedy

Like some will carry lanterns, light darkest paths, for others to step towards

as her sisters learn to speak new language and grow like hungry ivy

she feels the pit of her stomach open and a seedling sprout from within

it hurts so much to grow internally, like a miscarriage refusing to leave

she holds on to every moment as thick rope will choke, if you let it

she must drive it out of her

but how to divorce the parts necessary for survival? Retain a whole?

from those who seek to devour

as light will find a way into a closed off room

distinction slowly lost, leaving shadows to dance on clean tile

the smell of another day, unsure, it is about all time before, come to now

see her lying still, as untouched water in glassy gloom

how she wished to follow their burning quilled footsteps

higher into turquoise forest where even now, laughter can be heard

below surface where nothing stirs, but slow tread of one who is neither alive nor perished

but fragment awaiting its missing part

she thought so often it was you, and then her empty hands

demonstrate

the futility of wishing

for we are free only when, we claim nothing but the words growing in our gut

urging us to cry when we are supposed to laugh

The road

At first the road seemed seemed impassable

Such a long distance with no sighted end

90 pounds was

A hollow eyed effigy, struggling not to drown

100 pounds was

A sickened mouth, forcing itself to swallow and chew

110 pounds was

A hunger to gain lost appetite, swill of food laying heavy with each urged step

120 pounds growing muscle

Punching the fuck out of weakness and despair

125 the goal, she fought, her joints bloody and plastered together

When she arrived, her body, her mind, her vibrating soul, she stood and cried

At the distance she’d travelled, cracked knuckles captured in dried clay

Stretching like bad memories, bleached by unrelenting sun

In spite of this, still, a flower is able to bloom

Expansion

Gaining weight used to feel

dangerous

body parts blowing up, smothering familiarity

she wanted to be in control of everything and nothing could be controlled

so she took what she could instead …

her own flimsy pounds of flesh

the shrinking and expanding of time

denial and suppression, weezing like old men

enraptured by ballet dancer who starves herself to death

if she ignored her bodies longing to transform, she stayed small

and boys could circle her waist and say; you haven’t changed a bit! She could believe the lie and retrace time

could still be a slip of a girl, wearing her old clothes from when she was free of the demands of adulthood and blood, blood that did not rinse clear even when scrubbed

and this she did, for far too long, for fear of else

for what more was she? Not a mother, not since hurtling down the stairs, pushed by love, she saw her baby break into knots of placenta and gore

now not sure of whom she had become, in absenting herself it was easier, to dwell in the old shell and not

expand

comfort in knowing one’s exact circumfrance

and how it would feel to place a hand upon her flesh

a control without anything behind it, empty strawman, left without match to kindle, burn and diminish

she stayed the same whilst the rest of the world changed

grew wider, grew taller, grew inside and out

she was a fascimile of her damp past

it wasn’t until a sickening reduced her to almost empty

where she rattled and she clacked and she was hollow cheeked and pigeon chested

then her heart flickered on and off and she knew

the danger of staying still, was too great

she ate, though the taste was gone and appetite nil

outgrowing her own well known shape, she became something new

it was a frightening feeling to find what she would be

now that she had turned the corner and let the adult in

would she be like her mother with tiny little legs and arms?

or more of her father’s broad shoulders and freckled stomach

she was nobodies lover and nobodies mother

it hurt to cut herself out of the place she’d been so long, though long stale

and try to break out on her own, one unfamiliar piece at a time

in the bath she would gaze at her new body

bearing the marks of where she had visited

the underworld and the center of the sun

burning and drowning simultaneously

Her chest resembled the teets of a tiger, her thighs wide and strong

Readied to climb mountains, burst dams, forge expectancy

nothing else seemed important least of all

if she fitted into or fitted out of

the places she used to belong

this was a new version

she was going to gain more

than mere pounds and stone

she was going to quit starving to remain familiar

and learn the value of expansion

Advocating

She used to tell other girls

Sista! Stand up for yourself!

And when others needed her voice

She lent her ROAR

Don’t be quiet and let them walk over you, she cautioned

But when it came to her own

She sat demure, a photo in old box

Doe eyed and blinking

Knees together, ironed hair

Palms touching in supplicate

Head keenly nodding on hot wire

Stomach lurching like unmoored ship, drunk on the dream of voyage

All the while

A scream building inside

NO! NO! NO!

I am not a number to be parceled and coded

Spat out and told, we have no answers, for we have no understanding of the soul

I FEEL and in the night, if you listen closely at my door you’ll hear me pray

To every spirit and four leaf clover, even, the lopsided rabbit in my arms

As time flickered away with each new day of sickness

She needed an advocate

To be her unguarded voice

Which had become lost

In all the twists and turns.

And the tall doctor

He was no mind-reader

He had his well rehearsed routine and could if needed, click his ankles in mid-jump

She wasn’t easy to label and dismiss

Nor did she want to be, a compliant good girl

She wanted to question until they dragged her out into the street

Writhing to the sound of her own outrage

That we are abandoned by medicine in our most desperate hour

Leaving unhealed like scabs, without voices, our ill tended shadows

She wanted to understand

And find ways that didn’t involve dependency upon pills

He was a blonde marionette, testing his overbite

Talking in her head, Yak yak yak

The sound of chomping wood and splinters for lunch

She heard no future

Unless she spoke up

But where was her tongue?

Where had it gone?

Fortune cookie

A girl who used to look forward to dinner and a movie

The simple pleasure of walking hand in hand with stillness and a harvest moon

was handed a poisoned fortune cookie

caught a virus, and that virus crawled into her stomach, like a ray gun

it changed the waves until, her stomach like arrythmia of the heart

was fitful and lurched

she was instantly sickened, from a person of health she turned

green

her body shut down and said

no, I don’t want to eat

dimly she remembered the days

she would lust and long for food

her appetite completely gone, the acidic growl of her stomach

held all dominion

she was slave to nausea 24/7

like a merciless dictator it left her no peace

even in the lingering hours of night

she woke bathed in sweat

her stomach somersaulting in wicked mirth

such a terrible feeling of imbalance and sickness

her hands gripped the sides of the toilet

she prayed until her head ached

for nothing could have prepared her

nothing assuaged the constant torture

every day of every day

she began to imagine

her death

fondly like a fantasy

and then when she realized what she was doing

she would cry until the crying

made her sicker and she had to stop

bottle all the anquish up

but there was nowhere to throw it, or store it or let it free

it built higher like a fortress

locking her out of life

days, weeks, months went by

she was captured between glass

unable to eat or drink without throwing up

or wishing she never had to try to chew, force food in green bilious mouth

perhaps it was punishment for a former life

where she was greedy and ate too much

or tormented the Fates with the heal of her shoe

it seemed definitely karmic punishment

just as her will to live, ran thin and irregular

sometimes imperceptable

like arrythmia pulses below the surface

that would not quiet or return to normal

disturbing former calm we take for granted

a girl who used to look forward to dinner

sits at a quayside cafe, drinking empty glasses

eating plates without food

staring at turbulent water rise and fall

waves crashing without sequence, into wet wood

holding back or pushing forward, who knows?

one day either the sea will admit defeat, or erode everything

and that is how I will be free, she says

to carefree birds overhead, yet to be struck down

they know not their good fortune