Dying To Be Thin
The camera captures Ethiopian children,
eagerly reaching for bowls of gluey gruel,
while she stands, on stilt-legs,
silhouetted in my office doorway.
Skin like chalk, hair like straw,
she wails, “I’m too fat!”
pointing to an inch of concave abdomen
visible between the waistline of skin-tight jeans and pale pink top,
declaring “Daddy’s Girl!” in sequins.
She’s determined to be the thinnest girl in tenth grade –
at 85 pounds she has the dubious distinction of being
the thinnest girl in the entire school,
but she doesn’t believe it.
She can never be thin enough.
I can’t talk to this middle-class child of privilege
about starving children in refugee camps
or about her own calcium-starved bones.
All I can do today is listen,
seeing it as a sign of hope
that she has come to talk,
before it is too late.
This poem previously appeared in The Nashwaak Review.
Margaret Patricia Eaton is the author of three collections of poetry, a photographer, mixed media artist, and free lance writer, living in Moncton, NB, Canada. Her experience as a school guidance counsellor prompted her to write “Dying to be Thin”, published in The Nashwaak Review, 2004. She is thrilled that Rebecca Roach has made a donation, on behalf of this poem, to Eden Reforestation Partners (California) to plant trees in various African and Central American countries, that will rebuild forest ecosystems and help combat our climate crisis.
I see you…stationary on invisible, intersections of life. You are holding a menu of lack. Sometimes the crime of where you haven’t been is enough to get you ignored when you’re sitting at an empty table. It isn’t a fable that stirs your options in hot water resembling the taste of soup. The broth of catsup fills your cup of hunger while your mind picks at the thought of diving into a smorgasbord of hesitant fare? It isn’t the entrée you desired to snare.
I see you…dressed for success, but the yes on your face is re-placed by a struggling grip of wheel that cuts back on a job that isn’t there. Your pockets bare all, but the threads that slip through your fingers like change you want to see and not hear the hollow speech as you reach with desperation of hope in front of you. You never knew that the famine fuming in your tank could not be cashed at any bank. In fact, you would much rather make a deposit of depression at your own discretion.
I see you…thirsting for more than blight in your bowl. The toll of your night has not been as sweet as the treat of dipping cookies in cold milk. But the trick of scraps floating to the top cannot quench your crummy situation. We live in a nation where divergence is a depiction. Your life is not science fiction. Kids like to play with their food, but you can’t if the mood of your belly swells from the dust of mud-cakes. The recipe bakes into sleep that drools and rules, after the pang of hunger has schooled you.
I see you…because I see me, a reflection of who you are when I look into a mirror. I see clearer, when I understand that I am one situation away from holding a menu of lack; praying that my family stays intact. I am just a blur in the rush of traffic that won’t see me standing at intersections of introspection. I am just one boxed dilemma away from carrying the weight of pantry shelves into my home of fleeting heat. I am just one crumpled dollar away from a benevolent car window. It isn’t a fable that you are one snapshot away from being hungry today because I see you.
This poem previously appeared in Of Rust and Glass.
Sandra Rivers-Gill, an Ohio native, is an award-winning poet and writer who has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She is the editor of “Dopeless Hope Fiends,” and is a recipient of a Toledo Arts Commission Accelerator Grant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and is currently pursuing a Masters degree. sandrariversgill.com
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!