artwork: ralph murre
The fat women in the
Coney Island steam bath
pinched my cheek and laughed at nothing,
sweat gleaming off their skin and coarse, curly hair,
not a bone to be seen anywhere,
not in my aunt’s long breasts, none in the flesh
of my mother’s belly. I grew up in the shelter
of kitchen gossip, amplitude nourished by yeasty smells,
pillows of soft-rising dough, a feminine language
that taught me where the body begins, its armature
concealed, its health augmented like good soup.
By sixth grade, I knew I was fat. I married a man
with a flat stomach and an unrequited hunger.
The soup the Nazis fed him in their concentration camp
was thin as silk, what floated there thinner still.
From the aunts and mothers I learned wisdom is liquid,
rescue, a recipe they give to their daughters.
When the soup is done, I remove the bones,
scoop out the glutinous marrow, every last shred.
I spread it on fresh rye bread.
I watch him eat, and my heart gets fat.
~ First appeared on The Pedestal