Sunday Stew: Less of Me (My Body)

by Reagan Jackson

Touch me gently with voice and eyes
and hands that long to learn me
Tell me that if I become more than who I am now
your love will grow to match
that your heart is made of something
akin to stretch denim
large enough to hold these hips and thighs
make me believe it.


There should be less of me.
That has been the general consensus
of medical professionals, well intentioned gym teachers,
and kids on the playground
since I was 7 and baby fat became just fat.
Treadmills and lion tamers,
Weight Watchers and food journals
all failed to take this body
and make it into a suitable after picture.

 
Run little girl, run faster.
If you can’t run the mile in under 12 minutes
how can you ever expect to outrun
the un-love that is coming for you
the teenage insecurities that will wrestle you to the ground
the parade of men who will tell you
you’re simply too much woman.

 
Where will you find solace
when skinny blonds
wield their mirrors like knives
from the tops of every billboard
and no one notices
when you start to bleed.
No one notices…

 
There is something wrong
when loving your body as it is becomes
an act of political subversion.
I would love her anyway
wrap her in silks,
paint her in glitter and shimmy,
this reflection cast in the mold
of every woman I had ever loved
but I would do it knowing
I wasn’t supposed to.

 

Keep nothing of this place,
they whispered .
And in those dreams
my other mothers would come to me
touch me gently with voices and eyes
Spirit hands soothing the love back into me
rocking me in their laps
even when I was grown
reminding me that I could
never grow too big to be held by God.

 
Keep nothing of this place,
they knit their prayers around me through the nights,
but in the harsh light of day
I would awaken to this impossibility.
How I can unsew the shadow
clinging to my heels?
Shed the very air around me?
We were born into one another
my America
and the body of my circumstances

 
This body is my anchor
my declaration that moving me will be difficult
that I can sustain myself
for a season of lack
that I am prepared to never have enough
of what I need to sustain myself
This body is my airplane crash survival kit.
The granite beneath the ideals
graffitied across my mirror,
the mountain that shrinks for no one.

 
There should be less of me,
and what is left should be lighter skinned
in skinny jeans with long blond hair
because barbies come in black now
and Beyoncé is beautiful.
The height weight index was not the first
to measure me
to quantify the exact percentage
of how much of me was too much
to be allowable.

 
I wake up wondering
when the anger won’t awaken with me,
but I could no sooner
peel the nerves from my skin.
I could no sooner dissect my country
from my pupils, than disconnect the veins
that run through my heart.

 
This love is expensive.
Still I ask from others
what I can barely afford to give myself:
Touch me gently with voice and eyes
and hands that long to learn me.
Tell me that if I become more than who I am now,
your love will grow to match.
 

Painting by Shane Turner

 

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