divided from itself,
a walling off of that most 
primal of desires. A journey that will take her
through scalpels and recovery rooms, leave her body
threaded with red seams where excess flesh 
had to be folded and tucked like
a paper crane

she smiles, 
thinking how she will expand
even as she shrinks, being both more 
and less than, a great leap forward,
the hospital bed
a springboard
from which 
she will

the scale,
cruel wheel of fortune,
mirrors shrouded as if
somebody died

worries about 
how she’ll fill pants, 
chairs, airline seats, 

the shame 
of being seen, of being
the biggest girl in the room, hunching in 
on herself when there’s nothing to hide behind, no pillar 
wide enough to shield this bulk

the love-hate relationship
with restaurants and grocery store aisles, the candy racks 
with stacks of comfort and high fructose corn syrup 
distractions, being the movie theater rustler 
unwrapping smuggled-in candy bars, 
earning shushes and 
disgusted looks

guilt, for the sheer materialism of it,
for the privilege she wears on her hips 
when she’s surrounded
by a famished world 

need, counting 
almonds and measuring out oatmeal 
by the quarter-cup-full

control tops 
and Spanx, even as she thanks
her lucky stars that she was born 
after the heyday of girdles 
and corsets

shops where 
windows display headless mannequins,
all six-pack fiberglass abs and thigh gaps, the horror of
dressing rooms, where a string of X’s before
her size makes sure she knows
she is crossed out

the loneliness
of summer days, when she refuses
to wear swimsuits or shorts, so all she can do is
sit on the beach, sweating, and wave to everyone else
as they swim away from her

the terror 
of photographs,
the shortness of breath 
after a flight of stairs

with eating disorders,
BMIs and calorie charts that box her in,
choked on shakes, on pills, 
on numbers

the pain of chafed thighs,
of measuring the eras of her life
by how many pounds ago
an event was

quaint old expressions 
like watching my figure, when we all know
it’s the whole world 
that’s watching. 

-Lauren Scharhag

Lauren Scharhag is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry. She is the author of Under Julia, The Ice Dragon, The Winter Prince, West Side Girl & Other Poems, and the co-author of The Order of the Four Sons series. Her poems and short stories have appeared in over sixty journals and anthologies, including trampset, Whale Road Review, The Flint Hills Review, Io Literary Journal, Gambling the Aisle, and Sheila-Na-Gig. She lives on Florida’s Emerald Coast. To learn more about her work, visit:

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