A Treatise on Body Politics
A Treatise on Body Politics
A Poem by Jennifer Thal
Body politics is being held in matchstick arms as a
newborn babe and Mother murmuring
in my ear as I greedily latched onto her breast that I
will not balloon outwards, an order:
I will not stretch this fragile skin.
And when I did, she chained me
to a Weight Watchers scale and took
a carving knife meant for swine, excess unkosher
meat on a holy body, and told me to stand still.
Body politics is slicing myself into fractions
instead of taking up space; my size casts a stench like an
overripe fruit, too soft in one’s hands,
and I watch kin storm the temple of
their bodies and light a match; they burn away
flesh and weigh themselves on judicial scales
and hum a hymn of starved Enlightenment that floods
their bone-solid frame of concave worship until they drown.
Body politics have tried to rip my vocal chords from
my throat like a harp declared broken,
have reached to pluck my eyes from their sockets,
have held me down by a ballet bar in the back
of the stage where I existed as a fatty tumor on the body
of a well-groomed show dog,
and when Body politics tried to cut me out, the bitch bled and howled
and I clutched onto the muscle of the beast like I did with
my mother’s breast when I was new and young
and had just learned what could make me cry.
Body politics are a cult of smaller women posing on black chairs
and asking if I can fit self-love over the breadth
of my entirety, if I can squeeze into their skin
without bursting at the seams.
Self-love has no measurements:
I have entrapped bony bodies between legs encased in size-16 jeans,
I have burnt my fingertips on the offerings that blaze at the temples
of my 38-inch hips, I have tattooed the zippers of my XXL dresses
onto both disdainful and devoted flesh.
These curd-thighs are ocean waves frothed into rage by wanderers in
a desert searching for oasis and are scared to drown in its depths;
I watch them blister into dehydrated husks of men
who claim to drink from all bodies of water.
Hiding underneath this fat flesh is not a thinner, smaller body
this body is not held captive by a caloric tyrant
beating with fists larded by self-hate.
This body is no prisoner; I have eaten
men with these hands, I have crushed doubt
with these feet into powdered sugar, I have opals
embedded in my stretch marks.
The razor of my jaw is but hidden
underneath the protection of diamond-flesh.
When asked if I love myself,
Body Politics mock my measurements,
cast stones upon the stained-glass
windows of my temple.
My tribe of giantesses, regal in our expanse of skin,
with godly hips and bountiful breasts whose stretchmarks
run along the flanks of our flesh like streams,
Let us serve them hungry smiles, let us savor
the taste when we fill a room, the spaces
in their disbelief. Let us offer the salt
of our burned fingertips and let speech
When they ask us if we have self-love,
let us respond,
Let me show you how much.