Bikini Body

Are you are uncomfortable by what you see?
I would not be surprised. 
We're trained to judge a body by what it is,
and what it is not.

Every flaw has been painted into my mirror,
drilled into my brain from the first time
I saw my Mother mix Slim-Fast
into a cup of fat-free milk.
The first time I heard that she’s happier
now that her love-handles are gone.

Every ad is a microscope to this body’s flaws.
Every plan to lose a dress size in two weeks
Every new squat, press, and lunge;
Peel off those inches.
Fit into that bikini by summer.
Take up less space.

You are more comfortable
the smaller I become,
the smoother I become—
that much easier to slip from view.

I know you are uncomfortable.
My body, this swimsuit,
a burden to your eyes.
How else to explain how you can’t
lift them to meet my own.

My body is a sin—
I know this, feel it every day.
I send my wallet up as a prayer
to the gods of Sephora and Planet Fitness.
I lift, press, color, and pluck
until I'm forgiven for getting old.

What a day it would be to have you look at me
without me trying to hide my muffin top.
Oh, the relief it would be if I could stop worrying
about the dimples in my thighs.
What it would be to have you look at me
without me wondering if you notice
my frown lines and hooded eyes.

I will wear this bikini today.
Wear it without layering it
in shirts and shame.
I can’t carry the weight
of your judgement, anymore.
My body will touch sunlight.

-Alexis-Rueal

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Alexis-Rueal is a Columbus, Ohio poet whose work has appeared in online and print journals throughout the US and in Europe. She enjoys performing in venues and festivals throughout Ohio and Kentucky, and she was a member of the Women of Appalachia: Women Speak project in 2016-17. Her first full-length collection, I Speak Hick, was published by Writing Knights Press in 2016.