I’ve posted this poem before (a year ago, pretty much), but it’s worth reposting, which I will at the end of this note. What is occasioning the repost is that it showed up today on the Library of Congress’s poetry feed aimed at teachers, Poetry 180, and that it was published in the first place by Gargoyle magazine. Now, the Gargoyle publication is only remarkable because it’s a poem, about fat woman that appeared in a highly respected literary journal (albeit one edited by a particularly large-minded and large-hearted editor, the splendid Richard Peabody) at all. I’m not sure whether there are that many people out there writing “fat” poems, anyway, but it’s an edgy topic, to say the least.
And then for it to show up on Poetry 180. Gosh. The LoC’s project (do I remember correctly that it was started by Billy Collins when he was Laureate?) is pretty terrific, generally–a poem a day during the school year, aimed at hs students, almost always intelligently chosen to be accessible, but never to talk down, and to always be poems that speak to poetry’s ability to encompass a serious range of human material. But in all the years I’ve been subscribing, this is the first one I’ve seen mention the F-word. No, not “fuck,” which the project studiously avoids. FAT.
Given how much discourse (for which you can read, yammer and blather and savage lying) there is in the mediasphere these days about the subject of young people and oooooooooHbesity, it’s not like it’s an issue the young are unaware of. So I’m just plain tickled pink to see the LoC publish a nice, brainy, thoughtful, edgy, poem that takes up the juicily complicated issue of eating and sanctity. Good on whoever makes these decisions.
Anyway, in case you missed it last year:
The Hymn of a Fat Woman
All of the saints starved themselves.
Not a single fat one.
The words “deity” and “diet” must have come from the same
Those saints must have been thin as knucklebones
or shards of stained
glass or Christ carved
on his cross.
as pew seats. Brittle
as hair shirts. Women
made from bone, like the ribs that protrude from his wasted
wooden chest. Women consumed
They must have been able to walk three or four abreast
down that straight and oh-so-narrow path.
They must have slipped with ease through the eye
of the needle, leaving the weighty
camels stranded at the city gate.
Within that spare city’s walls,
I do not think I would find anyone like me.
I imagine I will find my kind outside
lolling in the garden
munching on the apples.
From Gargoyle Magazine