Glasses clink and
mouths smile and
jewelry sparkles and
eyes are hungry hawks.
This dress is too tight.
My smile is too tight.
My stomach is too tight.
I wish I could peel off my skin
to stretch it out over the curve of the Earth.
Maybe I would finally be skinny enough.
I wish I could give away pieces of my brain
until the light that shines behind my eyes
no longer reflects me, standing alone in the mirror.
The voices of the choir echo eerily
around the hollow chamber.
I feel surrounded here. The windows
are stained with stories I don’t know.
There is a hidden script in this place.
The Priest speaks to the crowd,
and they all know what to say back.
I scramble to keep up.
I decide to just mouth “watermelon”
like my theater director taught me.
In the middle of the ceremony,
everyone stands, my mother included.
I copy, but she tells me to sit back down.
“You’re not confirmed,”
she says, “so you’re not allowed to go.”
I sit in the pews, the only one above twelve.
People give me questioning glances as
they walk down the aisle, but I don’t see them–
all I see is how emaciated
Jesus looks on that cross.
The next time we go (a couple of years
later, before a funeral), I am ready.
When we are asked to rise,
I boldly stand and walk down the aisle
to where the Priest waits with his wine and wafer.
He smiles at me and says something.
He waits expectantly.
Clearly, this is a part of the script I don’t know.
Flustered, I smile and take the wafer from his hand.
I walk away, silent and without wine.
At the pew, breathing heavily,
I finally put the wafer on my tongue.
It melts before I can taste it.
The water feels like silk against the goosebumps on my skin.
Most wouldn’t swim in a pond in late February
but I have always been a ball of heat. The ice
in the water is a wake up call, a punishment, a cry for help.
Maybe I shouldn’t have left my home without speaking
or looking or feeling first. Maybe if I was a better girlfriend
or daughter or teacher I wouldn’t have had to run
so that I can remember that my legs are there.
When I rise out of the pond, water drips down
my skin and sinks into the ground. The Earth is soft
between my toes. Standing there, wet
and grounded, I can feel the rotation of my planet.
In my Classroom, at 7:10 AM
She handed me the banana bread
(on a paper plate, wrapped in plastic
and a joyful four year old smile,
cheeks still flushed from the cold outside.
I couldn’t help but smile at her face;
but it died when I looked at the food.
How to explain to this tiny child
the fear that grips my heart
at the sight of something as simple
as fuel for my body?
How to tell her of doubled waists
and cellulite thighs–never bad
because they existed, but bad
because they existed on me?
How to tell her of self-punishment,
of control and the lack of it,
of how banana bread is not just
wheat and butter and sugar and bananas
but also a terrifying promise of getting better.
“It’s for you!” Abby exclaims,
and she’s right. It’s mine.
I take the banana bread and
kiss Abigail’s forehead.
Her giggles resonate
in the classroom.
I never eat the gift.
I never forget her smile, either.
Hannah Rousselot is a queer DC based poet. She has been writing poetry since she could hold a pencil and has always used poems as a way to get in touch with her emotions. She writes poetry about the wounds that are still open, but healing, since her childhood and the death of her first love. Her work has appeared in Voices and Visions magazine, Panoply zine, Postcard Poems and Prose, and Parenthesis Magazine. In addition to writing poetry, Hannah Rousselot is also an elementary school teacher. She teaches a poetry unit every January, and nothing brings her more joy than seeing the amazing poems that children can create. You can follow her work at facebook.com/hmrpoetry.