Abandoned Self-Portrait no.156 Kind brown eyes Massive thighs Shapely lips Excessively-wide hips Right. Let’s start again… Flowing, glossy dark brown hair Lumpy, saggy bits everywhere A smile that radiates love and care Boobs a ridicul— Okay, enough, let’s not go there. Why can’t I write one nice verse, One line, one word about myself Without you butting in? <snigger> That depends on the word. How about ‘beautiful’? Surely it doesn’t only belong To the visually pleasing? What about the gorgeous-withins? But what you are inside Isn’t the subject of this portrait, And supporting your claim to beauty Would mean helping you to tell a… Porky pie <snigger> <Sigh> So what words am I allowed? Ugly. Stupid. Lazy. Greedy. Loser. Failure. Burden. Disgusting. Slobby. Pig. We can go on… Please don’t. These words you speak Like they’re so original, so clever, I’ve been hearing them forever. They have echoed in my ears For as long as I can remember. Whale Words flung at me, Explicit, implied, From mouths all around me And countless pair of eyes. Elephant Children, adults, in-betweens. Loved ones, strangers, in-betweens. Professionals with a duty of care. Suet Dumpling Okay. Fine. I give up. I will choke down the ‘beautiful’ That dared creep onto my tongue. I can pretend for a second, Try to use the artist’s licence, But they are always there— The voices, the critics— Poised to remind me That I Fatty Am not entitled to the B word, And that I Fatty Am in a battle I cannot win. Oh, but all is not lost. You could be beautiful, you know. I could? Oh yes. So very beautiful. If you were thin.
The story behind the poem
I have struggled with my weight my entire life, so it is a subject that often shows up in my writing. This poem began as an attempt at a positive self-portrait many years ago but as soon as I drafted it, the internalised fat-hating voice piped up and started telling me what a joke it was to write nice things about myself. Confidence undermined, I ended up hacking away at the poem until it was in complete tatters. Rather than abandoning the poem altogether, however, I decided instead to have a go at capturing just how the portrait came to be shattered. I’m not sure if I’ve done it as well as I would have liked to, but when the essence of this poem is a cry against the tyranny of perfection, it seems only right to share it as it is, imperfections and all.