Pretty

This is part of a series of posts on body image

This is, by far, one of my favorite thoughts on body image I’ve found on the internet over the past few years. It is interesting to hear what some people think about her words. More than once I’ve heard people say: wow, she sure is mad! Well yeah, I think that it is an angry poem but more than anything else there seems to be a ‘never again’ and ‘not my daughter’ kind of feel to it. And I like that very much.

However, what I really like the most is that it makes you think very seriously about the word ‘pretty’.

Recently I had my gall bladder removed. It was the first time I’d been under general anesthesia. First surgery ever (apart from wisdom teeth) and I was stunned at how difficult even routine surgery can be. Anxiety before hand, financial issues to sort through, digestive changes and foods that must be limited or eliminated altogether, wound care and scaring are the tip of the iceberg. Anesthesia wrecks havoc on your ability to feel like yourself for a long time after wounds begin to close up.

Truth is, your body is violated in surgery, even if it is only by the instruments, and it takes a while to stabilize again and move beyond that trauma.

After the surgery was over, after I came home and rested, after my aunts who had graciously come to take care of me had gone home, I stood in front of the full length mirror in my guest bedroom looking at the gigantic bandages.

Now, this is probably one of the world’s most amazing mirrors because somehow or another it is propped up against the wall in just such a way as to reflect the person gazing into it as ever so slightly slimmer than they actually are.  Quite a good deal slimmer. I would love to have it in my bedroom but I dare not touch it, lest it lose its magic! But standing there looking at my bandaged, weakened, exhausted body I was not as impressed with its usual transformative, Mirror of  Erised abilities.

Instead I was impressed with my very own human body!

Wow, I thought, someone cut into this body in four places, stuck a camera and other instruments inside and plucked out an organ! And yet, here I stand!

Here I stand.

As the days of healing time passed, the bandages came off to reveal a gigantic purple bruise as big and round as a doorknob on my belly and three other puckery pink and purple gashes. They were hideous, of course, but strangely beautiful, too. It seemed like they changed colors and shapes every day as my amazing, scarred, overweight, out of shape, beautiful human body healed itself. My Body Healed Itself! And I will never, ever see it the same again.

We often spend so much time worrying about pretty that we miss what is beautiful. It is like the word ‘nice’. Be nice. That’s such a trite thing. A bit like pretty. Vapid vapor at best. Mostly I think what we want people to be is kind. Now that’s a word with some depth. Like beautiful. Nice and pretty are what we want to be so that we can be liked by others. Kind is what we do for others and beautiful is about who we are.

The surgery wounds are, for the most part, healed. The remarkable bruise has long since faded and new skin seals what once opened to release one of my damaged organs. There are scars in every one of those places…. and scars are not pretty. But wow, they sure are beautiful!

This is the second post in a series on body image. If you have a story or wish to write an essay about your own experience with body image to post on this blog, please contact me. I would love to read it!

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Grace Tastes Like Pie

Grace tastes like pie.
Made by real hands,
Butter squished between fingers
Flour under nails and puffed into the air.
Just a little salty
Like tears on a precious cheek
Kissed away.
Crust rolled out flat
On a table filled with homework and bills
And arguments and sighs
Celebrations and sandwiches.
Laid in the tin, gingerly,
Like a sleeping baby.
Smooth out all the wrinkles.
Good night sweet dreams say your prayers.
It will all look different in the morning.
Berries smashed and pouring
Out their offering of dark red juiciness
Staining an apron and counter top
Like blood but sweet
And tart like wine.
Pour into the crust bed
Hope and memory and disappointment
Sweetened with vanilla and honey
Baked in the red hot oven of tenderness
Whose waves like summer wind blast
Full in the face when the door is open.
Little timekeeper shaped like a ladybug, smiling.
Don’t panic, she says.
All will be well and all will be well
And all manner of pies will be well.
To everything there is a season and time
For every pastry under heaven.
Steaming and calling through the house.
Simmering liquid love of sugar and blackberries
Salt and butter burns the tongue,
Melts the ice cream.
Then cooled and refrigerated.
Its best surprise is unexpected joy
In the middle of a long night
Satisfying the broken heart
The wounded spirit, the tired soul.
Grace tastes just exactly like pie.

My Poetry Is Magnetic

Often I have wondered if self-help groups that deal with phobias could be formed around the “anonymous” idea. Sort of like the AA/NA groups.

Hello, my name is Rosemary and I am a shop, craft, book, choco, film -aholic.

Hello Rosemary!

It would be great! No one wants to admit their fears any more than an addiction. Groups could gather together and share in the same sort of safe-space as the -aholics. Except it would be -phobes.

Hello, my name is Rosemary and I am a Poetry-phobe.

Hello Rosemary!

Yes, I’ll confess it here to the great wide gaping electronic masses since there is no PA (Poetryphobes Anonymous). Just remember this is all confidential, ok? I am afraid of poetry.

Years ago I had a refrigerator full of poetry. I mean, of course, magnetic poetry. These tiny slivers of lodestone printed with words gave me hours of joy. They strike me now as a verbal equivalent of disposable cameras or those little all-inclusive crafting kits in bargain book sections of the mega book marts. Cute but not very substantial.

But oh how I loved them! I used to think that if I ever wrote a memoir I would call it My Poetry Is Magnetic. It would have to be published by No. 2 Pencil Press. There is no real danger of this ever actually occurring, so do not bother coming up with apologies for not pre-ordering.

Eventually, all those tiny words ended up in the trash. Stuck together in little clumps, huddled and clinging to one another in their abandoned state and smashed between wet coffee grounds and half empty take out containers. I don’t exactly remember why I threw them out. Probably because some boyfriend made fun of me. Maybe there was some sort of passive-aggressive content by which he was offended and he retaliated with jeering sneers. Maybe I thought it was time to put such cutesy things behind me.

Or perhaps I saw quite clearly that I was not then nor would I ever be a poet and the esoteric delft braiding of words into such a beautiful creature as a poem was as far beyond my fingers as weaving a spider’s web. In defense, I built a wall between me and Verse and said, ‘I don’t understand this.’ I made my own sneering snarks about my lack of ability to become a beret wearing emo girl and, therefore, could never relate to poetry. You see, unchecked consumption of poetry might lead to attending readings in darkened clubs where ultra hip people dressed in all black and lit by a single spotlight recite deeply emotional renditions of their grocery lists composed in iambic pentameter or a series of haiku extoling the virtues of some obscure facet of their intense and dramatic lives.

But the truth is I am afraid of it. I stand before Poetry as a wet-behind-the-ears kid bearing a crinkled lunch bag stands before the school on the first day of the first grade imagining all manner of terrors that lie behind the doors. It is risky. It bears the hallmark of vulnerability. Poetry is, frankly, fraught with danger and the mysterious unknown rhythms with which I do not wish to engage in an undue familiarity. What if I accidentally liked bad poetry? I mean really bad poetry that should be obvious to all hearers is complete drivel and I, in my ignorance, might not realize it. What if I [gasp] wrote a poem and it truly was a horrid thing that left me standing, wounded, open handed and open mouthed before the wizened worldly ones experienced in the gnostic methods of verse who cackled mercilessly at my foolishness?

No. I am safe here behind my wall of not understanding.

A few months ago I accidentally read some poetry. It was not on purpose. When I bought the book, the guy at the bookstore said, “you’ll like it.” Was that some kind of warning or a dare? “Oh, it’s not for me,” I said, reaching out to touch that old familiar safety barrier between me and Poetry. “It’s a gift. I don’t understand poetry.” Then it happened. I was stuck at the laundromat and had forgotten to bring the book I’d been reading. In semi-desperation I opened the only one I had. It was a book of Ron Rash’s poetry titled Waking. Who on earth writes a poem about a fish whose name means “ugly pike” (the muskellunge)? Or about men cleaning their fingers with pocket knives and wearing grooves into porches with their rocking chairs? I guess he does. And it was good. At least in my small world once lined with magnetic words, it was good.

Then I actually went to a poetry reading. I have no idea how I ended up going because I never remember saying I’d be there. But there I was. Not a beret in sight. The room was brightly lit. The woman who read was just about as far from emo as I am. (For the record, I doubt Rash has ever donned a beret either.) It was so…… normal. I thought maybe it wasn’t real poetry. After all, I kinda liked it and I don’t understand poetry so there must be something amiss. No, I learned from an objective source, it was indeed real poetry and pretty good at that.

I have to be cautious now so that I don’t accidentally end up at another poetry event. However, I have conceded to an invitation to attend one in the future. So far I’ve felt no urge to don any kind of French headwear but at the first sign of this, I will run away as fast as my legs will carry me! I may have read another book of poetry, too, but I’m not ready to confess that just yet.

I still don’t understand poetry…. but maybe I don’t have to.