If and Only If A Journal of Body Image and Eating Disorders
Table of Contents From the Editors Vernyce Dannells
Stage Four Cutting Keloids
Maria Garcia Teutsch
The Box Trick
Audrey T. Carroll
June E. Desmond
Christina Fulton Kate LaDew Amy MacLennan Rebecca Cook Anonymous Andra Jenkin Pamela Scott Chloe Stricklin Carolyn Agee Sarah McMahon
JoeAnn Hart Karen Blanch Jess Rockeman Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi Leighton Meyers
South Beach Die-it there’s a bottle of extra virgin olive oil above the oven Thinning Cream Photography Kafka’s Creature For the Sake of June Nervosa The Deception of Eve Confessions My Breakfast of Champions Coping Mechanisms Floating Girl Self-Image Parts of a Whole Emesis The Cycle How to Cope
Love Poem Part 2 i’m not sure this is working
Tessa Gilles Kierstin Bridger Beth Konkoski Deborah Majors
Ira Joel Haber Patricia George Mindela Ruby Ken Poyner
Clunk You Could Call This Another Father Poem Ideas of Perfect Crack a Smile When I Knew I Was Getting Really Fat Iâ€™m Fat Untitled Deafened by Fat The Benefit of Portion Control The Feeding
From the Editors Dear Readers, After many months Issue 2 has finally arrived. It comes with so much content that we decided to split it into two parts; we hope you enjoy both. Through reading submissions we saw just how much there is to be said on the subjects of body image and eating disorders. And we hope our little magazine allows these experiences to be heard. When selecting pieces for this issue, we chose the ones that haunted us, the ones we couldnâ€™t get out of our minds, the ones we kept going back to. We saw something in every story, poem, essay and picture in this issue. We hope they speak to you, as well as to each other. Cheers, Jen and Yenn
The editors would like to acknowledge Professor Joe Weil for his guidance, the students in Professor Weilâ€™s poetry workshop for their help reading submissions, and Sara Walters who brought her nonfiction and poetry expertise to our selection process.
You called my answering machine relaying your mortal diagnosis… so many times you’ve relished my gullibility toward some twisted construct, that I’m not sure now this horrid news isn’t your way of checking how quickly I’ll brandish my cape to the rescue. No more, foul wind, malodorous loss! But it’s Stage Four, hard to believe anyone doesn’t recognize that mortal wound foreboding. When you’ve called you already know you’re well past the mortality projections long (oh six precious months) since the doctor sat you down and said you must get your affairs in order (what a phrase, such a time to suggest THAT!). We talk in cautious tones about the alchemic wonder of hope and prayer, and mildly buffet the naysayers and evangelistic ecclesiasts, who’ll blast that blastoma if they smell the aroma of a donation in it all. Once we were lovers, and while your children hover near the notion of your disappearance, you can scarcely fully hint what I most want to hear, that in this loss my heart remains knitted to yours, dear; and too, I can openly likewise declare and know that I have seen losses and more that garland this life of darkened, fragile filigree, glimmering memories. Of course, we cannot stay forever young, or long, but I join you in a wish to firmly retain hope, and perhaps see those yet home away to their searches for like eternities. In this, I am yours.
I love you and I want to ask you to see the carvings that were so important that you incised them into skin now your thin body hides them all under sleeves and sheaths and cool barriers erected. I love you and I want to ask you to see the carvings that were so important that you bled to have them, fled to the silence of rooms and repeatedly performed actions that were reactions to sounds and sights and cool barriers erected. Perhaps I am not supposed to know, and so I say merely I love you, all the while knowing that I want to ask you to see into what may be the cravings that led to the carvings you incised into skin, those cuttings jutting form skin that now your thin body hides under sleeves and sheaths and cool barriers erected.
A body’s nacreous neurosis unstoppable healing impulse never knowing when to quit ruched skin binding muscles thwarting mobility minimizing melanin
Burns blue cold twisting pain, months eluding recovery… marred surgical attempts at concealment compounded scarification following endless summer burn center sequestering.
A mere queer but gentle eleven only beginning to begin
Years avoiding yellow sunlit notice Warily protecting spoiled greying bandages my pathetic armature my disarmed but never publicly disrobed keloids.
some who perhaps saw too soon what I might be decided to alter me led me to an inescapably dark, remote enclosure. Set upon me Began the rolling seduction of an old-fashioned wash machine wringer WELCOME, then a “fish pussy tight” clench. The wringer, even know what that is? Wet clothes, inserted between perpetual rollers were better readied for line drying than spin cycle manages. I soon learned all this first hand, as it were. Six grabbed my vainly bucking body, my strangling, purpling left arm, led it into the pressing, grinding whitening blindness fled from me in the blackness wakened, engulfed in redness meshed pecan skin gone, never again regained. Charred mottled burns layer upon layer gone fallen upon release blistered beyond swollen. Obscuring mends and endless days of inner appeals, visualization and horror
bodyearth Sara Walters
There is a mountain range that spans both of my arms. When I was 12, the planes of my skin shifted to form it. It took eleven years to settle, to smooth its own edges and be drawn into the maps of my body. It sits there now, nameless and sinking further into me, like an overgrown lawn, like roses sinking beneath high grass. I don’t like people to see my mountain range. I cover it with ink and shirtsleeves, hide it inside of myself, its peaks pressing outward like knife points. Still, it’s there, faint but screaming against the horizon that spans from elbow to wrist. I sat across from him at a restaurant table in a dress the night after a new mountain erupted. Tinkling gold bracelets shadowed the new formation, but did little to hide its newness, the raw presence of broken bodyearth attempting to heal itself. He didn’t notice. He ate his sushi, held his chopsticks like delicate child bones, and told me about New York. While he spoke, I kept a careful eye on my wrist, on the aching, new break in my body, watched it peek at me through my jewelry, looking like an ornamented war casualty, a decorated dead thing. I am always trying to dress up what is dark and unruly about myself. I wear my weaknesses like new clothes—silently begging for them to be noticed. At the foot of his bed, I pulled the gold bracelets from my wrist one by one. I dropped them into my bag, leaving myself open, wrists a glaring range of old, white mountains and fresh, new canyons of pink and red. I laid beside him in bed. I let my wrist face the ceiling on the mattress between us. He fell asleep without noticing. He was always forgetting to notice me. In the mirror, there is dark hair, chipped fingernail polish, and grey eyes. There are words and pictures on my skin. They serve as reminders: you’re about to miss everything and strength will find you . But all they ever remind me is that I put them there to protect the skin they cover—no one would want to slash lines through a piece of art. In the mirror, there is too much skin. Too much body. Thighs that touch and hips that push outward. Whenever I am around him, I am especially and acutely aware of my own muchness, of how much more of me there is than I’d like. I spent dinners and bar dates with him wondering how thin and pretty his ex-wife probably was. How she probably only took up as much space as she should have. Once, he asks, “Can I see your scars?” in such a normal and casual and
comfortable way that it makes my body want to shrivel in on itself, to hide from how okay it is for him to ask that. And I lay my arms on a table in a restaurant, offer him my faded mountains, healed canyons carved out of skin, and all he says is, “You can’t even really see them.”
The Box Trick Maria Garcia Teutsch
You think, “I don’t have to feel this way at Christmas.” Cancel the party, sit at home and gorge on comté, gruyere and cambozola with your son; he in a small sailor suit, you in something pink and slinky. A thousand twinkle lights of indecision, the snowman in the snow globe flies until he smashes against the wall. You read the fake snow on your floor like tea leaves. You think, “I will leave and take my son.” Pack his yellow dump truck, Birds of America book, and a hot wheel case you’ll later use as a purse. In your new yard finches bounce from branch to branch, and soon you stop cutting the backs of your thighs like lunchmeat. You think, “the horror show is over.” No more getting in the box to see how many knives can be plunged into you before you’re dead. Float on the small petunias of your freedom. The perfume of the yellow red roses with the black tips proves you were right to pack your feathered skirt and leave.
Audrey T. Carroll
never used to the fact that, if this were any other place, then maybe she would not be the fat one, the one with big bones, too much cushin' for the pushin', nothing redeemable if you can't be bothered to lose the weight, to get yourself fit for a real man, and what are you if not looking for a real man Nothing. are you sure that you want all that to eat too much lettuce will make you bloat, and then where will you be except alone with your own ugly self, so take a good look in that mirror, and lose ten pounds wherever it jiggles--shrink, shrink 150, 120 105--shrink, shrink, until you are trying hard enough
Food Addiction June E. Desmond
When you look at me what do you look at? At the outer shell? The fat, the rolls, the flesh? The over-abundance of what I am? Do you see gluttony? Do you see sloth? Do you look beyond? Can you see what is inside? The heart, the mind, the soul? The over-abundance of who I am? Do you ever question the looks you make? Do you ever question your eyes? Ask them why they can only see the outside? Do you ever question your brain? Ask it why it feels the need to ridicule? Do you ever question your mouth? Ask it why it frowns? Look inside my depression. Do you see my hurt? Can you feel my pain? Can you heal my self-esteem? Can you look beyond the outer? Too many questions? Can I let go? NO Only when you stop saying… You would look so much better if… That statement only starts the process all over again. Addicted to food you question. How can that be? I don’t know it just is. Addicted to alcohol? You can live without. Addicted to drugs? You can live without. Addicted to food? Have you ever tried to not eat? Have you ever fasted? The need over-powers the brain. Don’t you have any will power? Sure. I don’t drink, I don’t drug. Food keeps everyone alive. Or so they say. Food is killing me.
South Beach Die—it Aka The marvelous misadventures of Skinny Minnie Christina Fulton
Congratulations! You have made the first difficult step towards a healthier and happier you. Living in South Florida can sometimes feel a little overwhelming with the unending procession of bikini bunnies and delicious and often not so nutritious food from all over the southern hemisphere. We’re here to help you strike up a healthy balance between it all. What’s on the Menu?
Low Fat Recipes
The Weight Loss Pledge In order for you to achieve your weight loss goals many health professionals recommended that you construct your own pledge to healthier and happier life. This will give you a chance to do some reflection and understand exactly why you have decided to lose weight. Follow the link at the bottom of the page to a printable PDF Format and remember to be honest with yourselves. Present Weight: SCREW YOU!!!! Target Weight: JUST Thinner…OK! I, Skinny Minnie, solemnly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me Dr. Phil. I will stand before my scale and Jesus and find some way to reconcile my weight with my chocolate covered moods. I will lose 3 dress sizes, along with three wasted years of stress eating over a complete jackass. I also promise to avoid all public displays of eating and affection. Also, it might be a good idea to swear on a decent stack of bibles not to venture anywhere near Flamingo Park. Desiderio might be there flirting with a flock of skinny bitches with little pink nipples. Damn Him! He knows I adore those little Empanadas they sell near the entrance. My comfort food is now guarded by a caramelized Casanova with a God complex. We had our first date there and now it is definitely a high calorie No Fly Zone. Anyway, the key point is I promise to cut calories, carbs, and maybe even a few dirty cunts. Signature Skinny Minnie Date 2/14/10 L
It’s important that you create and stylize a weight loss plan that suits your needs. Browse through a various formats and customize it for your age, weight, and sex. Try to remember to keep it simple and within the parameters of purification, eating habits, and physical activity. Age: 20-ish Weight: Whatever seems less pathetic! Sex: Like you really have to ask?
Skinny Minnie’s Ultimate Weight Loss Plan Phase 1: I have to clean out my system, in order to completely reboot. Many of those cyber shrinky-dinks recommend colonics, but who has the money or the time for a really good shit now-a-days. Other people suggest sweating it out, but I hate feeling all wet and sticky. Too many memories! There has to be a recession proof Detox plan that doesn’t involve frosted covered flashbacks. Oh, well a few Metamucil Martinis will have to suffice. They say you can’t even taste that stuff anymore and olives are relatively fat free. Phase 2: I have to cease and desist all destructive eating habits. No more Hershey kisses, real kisses, or edible body paint. In fact, food and I are officially calling it quits. I’ll drop the fridge off with the rest of Desiderio’s stuff. Condolences and crusty condiments never mix, so I’ll have to do it when he’s at work. From here on out I’ll just eat air, apples, and maybe even that cardboard box under the bathroom sink. It looks like it has a lot of fiber in it, and I definitely need to gain some sense of regularity. Phase 3: I have to start excising more. I guess stalking your exaddiction through the Lincoln Road Mall counts. Diving in and out of caffeine hook ups and galleries really makes you sweat. He brings his new pre-packaged jail bait there every Saturday. Oh, yeah, I can really feel the BURN! If I couple this with crying and marathon puking I’m sure the pounds will just drip, drip right off. Porcelain Pilates are the new Tae Bo.
Don’t forget to check out our collection of low fat and fat free recipes! You’re just one click away from some trim and tasty treats. Feel free to improvise if you’re short on time and money. Search
Skinny Minnie’s Low Fat Empanadas
1. To make filling: Heat oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onions, carrots, apples, toilet cleaner, and parsley for about 10 minutes. 2. Add your beef and cook for an additional 10 minutes, vomit frequently. Dissolve the cornstarch into your ass. Reduce heat, cook until everything evaporates. Add in one chopped up ovary. 3. To make dough: Blend his cheap gifts, masa harina, and salt in a toilet bowl. Add margarine and process everything slowly. Refrigerate overnight. 4.
Heat the oven to 425 and remove what’s left from the deep freeze. Divide the dough in half and roll everything into the shape of penis. Cut into even smaller pieces.
5. Spoon in 2 tbsp. of filling into each open wound. 6. Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-fattening lighter fluid and don’t forget to set your smoke alarms.
Things You’ll Need Desiderio
It’s important that you become aware of your calorie intake. Print out a few of these charts and carry them with you to work and play. Remember to fill out the notes section. You may find revealing emotional patterns that coincide with certain foods. Don’t forget to sum everything up at the end of the day.
4 Midol O
2 Mucus Bubble.
And 1 mysterious box under the sink.
Ask the guy on the front wearing nothing but my vomit and too much flannel.
Cry baby P.M.S. and dieting never mix. So I decided to double up on my diuretics. I’ll just piss everything away. I learned from the Cooking/Torture Channel that alcohol gives your body a select amount of hard minerals. I’m hoping that I’ll shit out something from Tiffany’s. I found a picture of Desiderio and myself at the Botanical Gardens. He was a forcing a yellow lily under my nose. Can a sneeze transcend time? Goodbye!
there's a bottle of extra virgin olive oil in the cabinet above the oven Kate LaDew
from my healthy living period a clove of garlic a day half a cup of lentils handful of blueberries one block of dark chocolate two ounces of fish there are only 3 tablespoons gone and you're pouring it in the skillet, making our breakfast for dinner fried eggs and bacon and cheese toast and I know after you scrape it onto our plates you'll run the iron under the tap to see the smoke and hear the hiss feeling like a viking or some blacksmith from long gone days. when I wake up in the morning there's a layer of grease on the cookie sheet I scrape into a plastic grocery bag and when the next tenants move into my apartment the smell of bacon trapped in the floorboards will either comfort or sicken and I think about synchronicity and how rash decisions left on high shelves sometimes make the best nights
Amy MacLennan Originally published in The Liberal Media Made Me Do It: Poetic Responses to NPR & PBS Stories
Her morning meal, no more smoothies of grapefruit, protein powder, kelpâ€” she gagged on the flavor, the feel in her mouth, but choked more on herself, squishy thighs, belly spilling over ever tighter jeans already two sizes up. Her breasts puffed as well, but the cleavage felt almost obscene, not sexy but a sign her body wanted to envelop itself. So her morning starts with two cups of coffee, two smokes, two shots. Muddled at first, but her weight drops, a hot air balloon settling, a slack collapse. So two became three, woozy and craving became one. Her smell changes from an earthy musk to a sharp smell of grass just starting to decay. She trades in lunch too, it works, it all works, brings her back to bones showing under skin. She figures a few months, enough to feel a new self, to be a compost heap, slow rot to shrink her down until she filters all that is wrong. She tries hard to remember slight
breezes against the hair on her arms, the languish of a slow pulse. She no longer thinks of the taste of fresh-baked bread or cantaloupe.
Tomorrow I will wake up thin. I will get out of bed as light as the girl I once was, the girl looking down at my tan legs in my little white shorts, so tiny when I put on my sneakers to ride my bike to piano lesson. I will walk down the stairs and my knees won’t hurt one bit and when I get into the kitchen I will drink black coffee because I have lost my craving for cream. When I’m thin creamy things will not interest me and it will be as if all those years of cornbread sticks dripping Blue Bonnet, all those heaps of creamed potatoes, all those pieces of fried chicken and green beans dripping bacon grease never happened. All those chocolatecovered cream-filled cakes with the finger of jelly on top? Never happened. Those endless Cokes and bags of Fritos? Never happened. Instead I will be the girl who learned the backflip, who balanced and tumbled and built muscles in her short legs, who learned to eat small meals, who would never skip class and sneak into the gym to share an entire box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls with Vonya. No, I will be as thin as I was the year I gave up bread AND candy for Lent. My hip bones will stick out again and the fabric of my grey pants will move across my belly when I walk down the hallway at school and the boys will watch me, thin enough to be in magazines. When I’m thin, I’ll have cheekbones and no hint of a double chin. When I go to parties the spinach dip won’t even tempt me. I’ll nibble on cheese and it will be as though the bread doesn’t even exist. I’ll hover over the vegetable tray, crunching on the stringy hayfield taste of raw celery. I’ll eat cherry tomatoes and baby asparagus and slices of lemon that pucker my lips. One glass of low-calorie white wine will make me as tipsy as if I’ve had the whole bottle. When I’m think I’ll tuck in my shirts without a moment’s thought. I’ll wear strapless dresses and my breasts will not touch the top of my belly because I won’t have a belly. My stomach will be as flat as it was when I was twelve and Alesia said how jealous she was of me in my jeans, my little yellow tee shirt riding up on my flat, flat midriff. I will walk across the room and my thighs won’t rub together and my butt won’t wiggle a bit. When someone asks me how I keep my beautiful figure, I’ll just smile and say I just don’t like carbs. I crave grilled chicken breasts and cottage cheese and salad with oil and vinegar dressing. I’ll poo-poo the very thought of Ranch or Thousand Island.
At Christmas I’ll bake perfect cookies that I have no interest in eating. I’ll take pleasure in watching other people eat them, walking around the room, shaking hands and saying how are you, how are you, my body light enough to float, just one puff of wind through the front door will do away with me. I’ll go to fancy stores and spend thousands of dollars on designer shoes and stilettos because my feet won’t hurt in high heels. I won’t have to shop in the big girl store anymore. I’ll shop in the Junior section because I’m a size zero and my bones rub together while I pick out a pink sweater and a short short skirt that shows my shapely knees. I’ll go back in time and find my graffiti jeans. I’ll put them on and I’ll be sixteen again sitting in my desk too cool for school ready to sneak out and smoke Virginia Slims. I’ll fit into the Boy Scout pants again and sit on the front-porch swing with my best friend, Becky, and when Mama calls us to supper I’ll ask for a tomato sandwich with no mayonnaise and I’ll wander out to the garden and pull a long orange carrot straight from the ground. When I’m thin, I’ll run five miles every day, not because I feel like I should but because it makes me giddy. I’ll go to the gym and swim a thousand laps. I’ll ride my bike for miles and my butt won’t ache because it’s so small and I won’t dread the hills because, really, I have no problem just zipping up them. I’ll fly across the hayfield and into the woods, all the way to the pond as hard as I can and I won’t stop to catch my breath at the top of the stairs. I’ll bend backwards in yoga class and pretzel myself and there won’t be a bit of stress in me and I’ll sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I won’t have puffy bags under my eyes and there won’t be even a hint of lines around my lips. I’ll go to the beach every summer and wear a tiny white bikini and stand in the surf and people will look at me thinking I’m just thirty years old, my tan legs full of muscle and it won’t matter that I have no ankles because I’m in such perfect shape. When I’m thin enough, I’ll hide behind the hanging clothes in my mother’s closet, just a bag of bones and water, a curled up fist, skin tight and soft as a baby’s. I’ll be seven again, just thirtyseven pounds, sitting in the laundry basket in my parents’ closet with a flashlight and book and when Mama calls me to the table I’ll have a bowl of vegetable soup and one chocolate chip cookie. I will never go to my cousin’s house and eat frozen waffles and sweetened cereal and gain five pounds in one week. And Becky’s mom won’t have to hide the bag of cookies from
me because I won’t want them. I’ll just ask for a piece of cheese and nibble it slowly while we play Barbie’s, dressing and undressing their perfect bodies. I will zip up my sailor jumpsuit and go off to the star search and the photographer will marvel at my cheek bones. He takes me to New York and they cut my hair spiky short. The clothes hang on me, my bones rattling when I sashay down the runway, sexy and perfect and at the end of the day Susan and I will drink gin and red juice and I’ll curl up on the sofa, as thin as the day I was born, just five and a half pounds, twenty-one inches long, the diapers gaping around my skinny legs. I have a photograph of that day and I will live in that photograph, in my mother’s arms, the sun on my face, and I will never get fat because I will never grow. My mother will paste me into a book and it will be dark inside and very very quiet and I will always be very very thin.
Kafkaâ€™s Creature Andra Jenkin
I am the hunger artist Holding power In my will To limit The flow of food Entering my body Kafka your hunger artist Was ignored The salacious audience Watching instead The raw Power of a panther I too want to be that panther Eyes upon me Kafkaesque So strange That to be sleek and beautiful To be the panther I must first Become The hunger artist
For The Sake of June Pamela Scott
1 I notice the curtains are closed when I walk up the path to my daughter’s front door. I know this means I’m in for a bad day. She’s twenty-eight and has anorexia nervosa. That fancy word doesn’t mean much to me. I just know she’s thin as a rake and getting thinner all the time. I watch her waste away in front of me and know there is nothing I can do to help her. She’s severely depressed as well. I tuck the potted plant I bought her - a lilac, her favourite when she was a child – under my arm along with the box of cakes I bought at the local baker. I rummage in my bag for her spare set of keys. On a bad day she doesn’t get out of bed. There’s no hope she’ll answer the door. I find the key at last. I unlock her door and enter the house. I lock the door behind me. I notice the smell first, a pungent odour that catches in the back of my throat and makes me cough and splutter. The carpet’s matted with filth and sticky beneath my feet. She hasn’t done the housework in a while. I check out all of the downstairs room’s. Everything’s covered in an inch of dust. I can smell rotting food. Her house always stinks of it. I never really knew the smell of rotted food or food that had gone bad before my daughter got sick. The smell of rotting food and the dust everywhere tells me she hasn’t been out of bed for several days. The last time I was here was two weeks ago. I doubt if she’s moved since. The house is in darkness. I flick the light-switch but nothing happens. I check the electricity metre in the hall. She’s flicked all the switches off. I flick them back on. The lights all come on and the sudden brightness blinds me. I march into the living room. I place the potted plant and cakes on the coffee table in the centre of the room. I throw open the curtains and bright daylight spills into the room. I throw open the curtains in every room. I can almost hear the house sigh with relief as daylight spills into it. I still haven’t heard a sound. Anyone else would think the house is empty. I know my daughter better. She hasn’t left the house in months. It hurts her frail body too much to walk around. She lies in bed too weak to get up and too stubborn to ask for help. She gets that stubbornness from her father. I pull the fridge door open. The stink makes me gag. I stocked the fridge the last time I popped round. She’s hardly touched a thing. The shelves are full of rotted meat, fruit and vegetables. The milk’s long gone sour. The cheese has started to mould. The putrid stink makes my eyes water.
I grab the bin she keeps under the sink and sit it on the floor in front of the fridge. I cover my mouth with one hand to keep the bile back. I sweep the contents of the fridge into the bin. I go through the cupboards as well. By the time the out of date foods in the bin the shelves are almost empty. I pull the bag out of the bin, tie it into a knot and dump it in the wheelie-big outside beside the back door. When I go back into the house I hear a floorboard creak above me. I listen to my daughter’s footsteps. I hear the floorboards creak, the toilet flush, more footsteps and the sound of her bedroom door slamming shut. I wait a few moments, take a deep breath and make my way upstairs. 2 I open the windows in all the rooms before I go into her bedroom. She’s lying under the covers, propped back against the pillows. She’s flicking through a book on her lap. I knew she’s not reading it though. She likes to pretend things. Her appearance shocks me. She’s lost a lot of weight in the two weeks since I saw her last. She looks like a bag of bones under the thin sheets. I can make out the shape of her ribs and collarbone. She doesn’t have a lot of her hair left. Her hair used to be blonde and down to her waist and was thick and glossy. The colour’s faded from it almost completely. There’s not any life in it. There are only a few limp wisps left. She’s skeletal thin. Her skin looks like paper. I can see all of her bones. Her eyes are sunk deep into her skull. Her cheeks look hollow. Her fingers are thin as twigs. In that moment I hate my daughter’s illness for turning her into something out of a horror movie. “I thought I heard you downstairs,” June says. “Why didn’t you eat any of the food I bought? I had to chuck it all out.” “I ate some of it. I wasn’t hungry. You bought too much stuff again.” “I bought sufficient food for one person for two weeks.” I can hear the nagging tone in my voice. I know this will just rile her up and she’ll become defensive. I can’t help it. I gave birth to her. I was in labour for eighteen hours. She hits my “overbearing mummy” button every time. I cross the room and yank open her curtains and the window. I can’t remember the last time they were open. She shrinks back from the air and light. “Close them again, Mum,” June says. “You need light and air in this house and around you.”
“Not today.” “Don’t talk nonsense, sweetheart. You’re deathly pale. Light and fresh air will do you the world of good.” “Mum –“ I tilt my head towards her. “They’re staying open. I won’t have my daughter fermenting in the dark.” “Fine, you can do what you want. You always do.” I perch on the end of the bed. She shrinks away from me like she’s scared I’m going to hit her. I’d never harm a hair on her head. I hate that she’s become so suspicious and cautious. “I noticed the house hasn’t been cleaned in a while,” I say. Her hackles rise. “I haven’t felt up to it.” I touch her hand. She shrinks away. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant –” I stroke her paper-thin skin. “You should have called me. I could have helped you.” She folds her arms across her chest. She looks at me, defiantly. “I don’t need your help, Mum. I can manage.” “You can ask me for help. It’s not a big deal.” “I’m fine. I don’t need help” I pace the room and fuss with her things. She watches me. There are so many things I want to say to her. I need to bite the words back every time they come into my head. If I speak them aloud she’ll cut me out of her life like her father. She only lets you in her life if you pretended she’s fine. You can’t mention her weight or her illness. You need to act like nothing is wrong. Jake, my husband, can’t put on the charade, even for me. He told her a year ago to get help or she’d never hear from him again. He’s kept his word. He never asks after her. I can’t talk about her at home. Her name has become taboo in the house where she was raised. I can’t be like him. I can’t turn my back on my daughter. It breaks my heart when I see how thin and unhealthy she looks. I can’t cut her out of my heart like my husband. I gave birth to her. Even if she’s determined to starve herself to death I’ll never leave her side. What kind of mother would do that? “Why don’t you have a shower? I’ll make breakfast?” I say. “I don’t want to get up today.” I pull the covers off her. I wince when I saw how thin her legs are. Dear God! I don’t know how she manages to even stand upright on those frail sticks. I don’t even want to think about how she manages to walk. She tries to yank the covers off me.
“Leave me alone, Mum,” June says. “You need to get out of bed, sweetheart.” “No, I don’t.” “You can’t just lie here like a corpse. It’s not healthy.” “That’s up to me.” She yanks the covers out of my hand. She sinks back against the pillows. I grab the covers again. I yank them off her and throw them across the room. She gives me a horrible look. “You don’t want to talk about your illness so I don’t but I won’t allow you lie in this bed all the time and ferment under the covers. You get up now or I’ll march out the door and leave you to get on with it,” I say. “That would suit me.” She lies down on the bed and turns her face away from me. I turn my back on her and march out of her bedroom. I try to set my face in hard lines so she knows I mean business this time. My lips are trembling and tears run down my face. I’m halfway down the stairs when I hear her get out of bed. I run back up and into her room. “Fine, Mum, if being out of bed will stop you complaining I might as well get on with it,” June says. I mutter a prayer of thanks under my breath. I can’t remember the last bad day when I got her out of bed this easy. There have been days when no power on earth will move her. There have been days when I needed to physically drag her out of bed and frog march her to the shower. “I’m going to have a shower,” June says. I kiss and hug her. This might be progress at last. 3 I rush downstairs to make her some food. I hear the shower. I can hear her walk about. There’s nothing left in the fridge. I find some frozen macaroni cheese in the freezer that I stick in the microwave. There isn’t any milk left. I find some still-in-date fresh orange juice wedged in the back of the fridge. I pour her a large glass. I take a small plate out of the cupboard and sit some cakes on it. I water the potted plant and sit it on the windowsill. The microwave beeps. I scrape the food onto a plate. She comes
downstairs and into the room. She sits at the table in the centre of the room. She has on a clean pair of pyjamas. I sit the plate of food and juice in front of her. I give her a fork. “Thanks, Mum,” June says. I place the plate of cakes in the middle of the table. I make a coffee and sit in the chair opposite her. She gives the plate of cakes the evil eye. She starts to pick at her macaroni. I drink my coffee, have a cake and watch her. She eats a couple of mouthfuls and shoves the plate away. “Don’t you want to finish your food?” I say. “I’m full.” “You’ve hardly touched your food.” “I’m full.” She drinks the juice. She scrapes the rest of the macaroni into the bin. I take a large empire biscuit off the plate of cakes and shove the plate towards her. “I don’t want a cake,” June says. “It’s only one cake. What harm will it do?” She gives me a nasty look. “I don’t want to put on any more weight. I’m fat enough as it is.” “You’re not fat, you’re too –“ She gives me a warning look and I bite my tongue. “I don’t want a cake, Mum.” “Just have one cake. Please. You don’t even need to eat the whole thing. Just take one bite. Please. The doctor said you need to eat well.” I plead with her to take one bite of cake. I’d force-feed her the whole plate if I could. In seconds I know I’ve gone too far. Her face twists in anger and colour floods her cheeks. She stands up so fast she knocks her chair over. It makes a loud thud when it hits the ground. She sweeps the plate of cakes onto the floor with one hand. The plate smashes and broken bits of cake spray everywhere. “Do you want me to be fat, Mum? Why do you hate me?” June says. “I don’t, I never said –“ “Don’t you how hard it was for me to lose weight? I’ve struggled for years to be thin and pretty. I finally left that fat stupid girl behind me forever. Why do you want to bring her back?” “I’m sorry. I never meant –“ “Get out of my house. I mean it this time.”
I grab my jacket and leave before she says anything else. I don’t want to fight with her. It will take weeks to repair the damage. It breaks my heart when we argue. I know neither of us means it. I decide to wait a few days before I go round again. 4 My husband is home. He’s weeding the back garden. I wave to him from the kitchen window and start to cook the dinner. I want to tell him about what happened at June’s. I know there’s no point. He refuses to talk about her. He told me only to tell him when she accepts she’s ill and needs help. There’s no one to talk about what’s going on. I wait three days before I go to see her again. I try to wait a week but can’t make it. I’m worried about her. There was hardly any food in the house. She won’t have gotten round to cleaning yet. I wait until my husband goes to work. The curtains and windows are still open. This is a very good sign. I can’t remember the last time they stayed open so long. She usually closes them as soon as I’m gone. I let myself in. The house has been cleaned since we argued and smells nice and fresh. I can feel a breeze against my face. This is a very good sign. “June, sweetheart, it’s Mum. Where are you?” I say. There isn’t an answer. I check every room downstairs but she’s not in any of them. I’m halfway up the stairs when I hear a scream of pain. The sound comes from the bathroom. “June, honey, is that you? Are you okay?” I say. “I’ve hurt myself. I think I broke something. It really hurts.” Her voice is filled with pain. I take the rest of the stairs two at a time and throw the bathroom door open. She’s sprawled on the floor, wedged in the small space between the toilet seat and the wall. She looks like a broken doll. The shower is still dripping. The noise sounds enormous. I switch it off fully. Her face is a horrible shade of grey. Her shoulder looks twisted and swollen. The skin looks bright red and inflamed. I kneel beside her. “What happened?” I say. “I took a dizzy turn when I got out of the shower. I fell. I think I’ve broken my arm or dislocated my shoulder. It really hurts.” “I’ll phone an ambulance. Try not to move.” “Okay.” I turn towards the door. She grabs me with her free arm. I look down at her. “What’s the matter honey?” I say.
“I’m –sorry, about the other day. I know you were only trying to help.” “It doesn’t matter.” I run downstairs and dial 999. I give them my daughter’s name and address. I explain her condition and tell them what’s happened. The operator tells me an ambulance is on the way. I go back up to the bathroom. I want to wait by her side until the ambulance arrives. I kneel on the floor next to her. “I’ve been thinking,” June says. “What about?” “Maybe I should see a doctor – about my weight I mean. I feel fat but I know I’m not. The person I see in the mirror isn’t the person I feel inside.” Tears of relief run down my cheeks. “I’ll go with you if you want.” “I’d like that. I don’t think I can do this on my own.” “You don’t need to.” “Thanks Mum.” I hug her, gently. She’s so thin I don’t want to hurt her. I’ll do whatever it takes to make her well. She can move in with us if that’s necessary. I’ll force-feed her if I need to. The ambulance arrives and I go to hospital with her. The doctor’s wheel her away. I call the house and tell my husband she’s ready to get help. He gets in the car and drives to the hospital.
You fill me empty like a jug with holes in the clay. I canâ€™t keep my insides from dripping on the floor.
The Deception of Eve Carolyn Agee
The mirage of fat shimmers on bones jutting from gaunt cheeks, raucously taunting her image. She chews her bites slower before spitting. Excising the apple to atone for existence of her soul.
I’ve got the loveliest bones. Ivory sticks clink -clinking, bones go with any outfit small enough not to cinch skeleton elbows, knees creak when I walk, rivals run scared when they see bones coming— I’ve got the loveliest bones. Toothpick-ing my place at the tented freak-show, eyes comb over these blue-ribbon bones. Cheeky endorsements by Dove, Clinique, Mary Kay Cover Girl clink-clinging to Mark Ecko’s mirror mirror on the wall, who’s got the loveliest bones of all? He’ll say, My dear you have the whitest bones, the thinnest hair, skin cold as stone, eroding teeth, a weak heartbeat, chronic fatigue, but… you sure do have the loveliest bones…. Playhouse glass twists a sinister smile, s t r e t c h i n g my thigh gap for runway miles. Skeletons waltz in my closet clink-clatter all night the mattress grinds my scorpion spine; weak and lethargic these bones are so tired, calcium craters clank-clanking between a rock and my skull space the only place I feel at home is at Victoria’s Convention, viewers ooohhh and aahhhh at my symmetry of structure, whisper to each other… she’s got the loveliest bones.
My breakfast of champions Sarah McMahon
is a sugar cube dissolved in Earl Grey tea and a teaspoon of cream. I slide into skinny size 0 jeans with room to spare, my goal is to take up less. My stomach is a beast with razor teeth I calm him with cups of tea. He pounds at my ribs, counts all 24 of them— tight across skin I’m never comfortable in, I am a champion stepper of scales cocaine-like high when numbers dive, depressive panic if numbers rise, I am a champion fighter, the kitchen my ring I’m Muhammad Ali, dodging the cupboards I reach for my tea— food makes me nauseas, I’m overly cautious when chewing, forgot how to swallow. I’m good at resisting, Ignoring my beast, feed him cup thirteen to put him to sleep— I am a champion, for now. And this is my breakfast, earl grey tea, a sugar cube, cream— enough to quell my stomach-beast, make him feel full for a while make me feel whole for a while. I am a champion walking thesaurus fat, pudgy, husky ugly, unworthy, sick, ailing, ill, under the weather avoid family dinners, the questioning eyes— I am a champion of self-rejection to me, that’s perfection. I hide behind hair that’s barely there hoping like hell that someone will crown me Queen of breakfasts uneaten, I will forever be a champion.
Coping Mechanisms Sarah McMahon
This poem is not self-defense. I realize it might be meaningless— a Wal-Mart aisle only cereal. Plastic cup of pulpy Tropicana, bluish skim milk pooled in breakfast bowl bottom soggy sticks of Shredded Wheat cling to beige ceramic edges, coarse transition: box to bowl to spoon to lips coaxed open by nurse whose lips pantomime, “It’ll be O.K.” This is self-revelation. Spoons— the softest utensil—scare me. Food journals no one else reads; one-third cup orange juice one-half biscuit wheat, one shrinking esophagus swallowing demons—everyone has demons. I realize this is meaningless.
Floating Girl JoeAnn Hart
Originally published in The Roanoke Review
I think Mom has been standing in the doorway for some time. Good thing I was only lying here watching TV. She whispers. She doesn't want the nurses to hear. "Cassia. Honey. Again?" There are other words, but the bed's electric hum as it props me up drowns her out. She lays her tailored gray coat on the empty bed next to mine and puts her hand to her throat, feeling for her pearls. With her other hand she tickles the hair back from my forehead. It's cold, her touch, she must have forgotten her gloves. That's not like her. "Could you pass the crushed ice....pwease," I say. Look, five gray hairs above her left ear. The blond rinse isn't doing it for her anymore. Her head flinches, not saying no, just getting rid of a distasteful thought the way she does. She doesn't like when I talk baby talk, but she's afraid, now, to open her mouth. The blue cup is on the table and she has to reach through the IV lines to get it, overly careful, as if the loops were snares. The cup has sat too close to the lamp and now it's all wet on the outside. "Here," she says opening up her black quilted-leather bag. "Angie brought it home from school." It's a folded manila sheet of paper, a drawing of white and yellow five-petalled flowers in a vase that, if real, would be too small to stand under the weight of its bouquet. "GET WELL MOMMY." I see the teacher's penciled letters under the red-crayoned words. Mom lowers herself on the guest chair, then crosses her legs, which she shouldnâ€™t, and she knows it. It makes her varicose veins so much worse. Static crackles when the lining of her skirt rubs up against her stockings. She looks at her watch.
"You're over thirty," she says, keeping her voice low, as if we were in hiding. "It's too much to ask of your body, and you have Angie to think of. A heart can give out under this sort of stress." First I'll have that ice chip, and then I'll have the smaller one, unless it melts first. She's oh so worried about the nurses 'opinion. Sometimes, in the dark reflection of the TV screen, I can see them pass in the hall, talking, eating, their mouths always open, always shoveling something in. Brown paper bags from home, with grease marks on the outside, lumpy egg salad on whole wheat wrapped in wax paper, and that smell, don't they know how smells like that can travel? "Cassia, don't drift." She leans forward to put her hand on the white tent of my legs, but I pull back in time, hitting the IV trolley, and making the glucose tide rise, an ocean in a plastic bag. We both stare at it until it settles. "Where's Dad?" I ask. "He's gone to pick up Angie at day-care." She smooths the sheet along the edge of the mattress, but does not come any closer. "You've got to make more of an effort, honey. For Angie. Now that she's in school she's finding out that people don't live like this." "This?" I roll the ice to the roof of my mouth with my tongue. It's cooler up there, so it will last longer. "What is this?" "This is not being trusted with a door on the bathroom and no flusher on the toilet." She tugs at the loop of gold on her right ear and looks up at the screen. "Can we turn this TV off?" â€œNo! The Simpsons!â€? I love them. Red cherry Slurpies from Abu's, pink pork chops, Homer at the open refrigerator gulping out of the carton, milk dribbling down his smooth, round body and onto the floor, where the dog licks it up with his tongue. "Really, Cassia. Cartoons?"
That greyhound on the Simpsons has one, two, three, ribs. My favorite episode is the one where he drags the Thanksgiving turkey to the back yard and eats it all. Yet he still has those same three ribs. He's one smart dog. "We're all going to roll up our sleeves and beat this thing when you get out. We're going to win. Cassia?" Listen! It's the squeak of wheels. The elevator door is sucking shut. I jerk up so fast I almost spill my ice. "Don't do that to me," she says, with her hand fumbling at her throat. "I thought you were having another..." Instead of finishing she looks at her watch. Seizure is the word she wants, but I'm not giving it to her. The food service cart is in the hall. Yes. Itâ€™s on this side now, at room fourteen. But then I hear it go back across. A delay. The old woman with a broken hip in thirteen is such a whiner. Sixteen, eighteen, across to seventeen. Finally. I can hear the orderly fumble with the cart right outside the door. It takes him longer to pull out my tray, because it's special, so carefully weighed and measured out for me in the kitchen. The pear-shaped boy comes in with the tray too close to his face. He's like the Good Humor man the way he's dressed all in white, a pure white pear. He smirks as if he's embarrassed to be caught bringing me food. Mom pats at her skirt as if she were brushing off crumbs, then goes to the window to look out at the parking lot. She wouldn't turn her back to us if she knew what she looked like from behind, with all the food she's buried in her body over the years. "I'm going to leave this tray here, Cassy," the orderly says. "At the foot of your bed." He points his finger at me like a gun and smiles. "No tricks." Even though I have to worry that he steals from the trays, I like him better than the nurses who won't even look at me. They just wish they were thin. Eat your hearts out. When he leaves I sit up and tuck my legs under me so I can slide the tray closer. The best part about
the hospital is the way the food is kept separated and covered, all neat and clean and perfect. The eating utensils are sealed in plastic bags, which I slip off without letting the fork clank against the spoon. There is no knife. They make such a big deal out of everything. I hide the empty bag under my pillow. The rustling sound makes Mom look over her shoulder, but she didn't see. She turns back to a sunset long gone, only a bit of purple left in the sky like a bruise. Down to the left is the black flat roof with the kitchen vents spewing greasy smoke, seeping into the night. She worries two pearls at her throat, click, click, click. I feel bad for her because she frets so much. There's no need. I have it all under control. Each plate has a blue plastic cover with recessed knobs, a large one for the main course, two smaller ones for salad and dessert. The covers are supposed to keep in the smell, but they don't fool me. Fish. Trying to trick me into eating something made of organs, kidneys full of pee, veiny hearts, yards of filthy intestines. I'd love to see that kitchen, it must be huge! To see where they keep all the charts, the lists of meals for each patient, the nutritionist burying her head in her hands, trying, trying, to balance it all out, making it work. I'll bet they've got starchy pasta boiling in their giant industrial stockpots right now. I lift up the large blue cover just a crack, the last wisp of reeking steam from the kitchen escapes. I breathe it in so it won't leak into the room. Mom sighs, then adjusts her waistband before returning to her chair. I lean back and stare up at the TV, ignoring my tray as if it were not right under my nose. I pick up my ice and swirl it. It's the Campbell commercial with the old man and the boy hanging bear-like over their bowls of bloody tomato soup, slurping and grinning at each other. No wonder the mother appears, hands fisted on her hips to see what they're up to. "Did you see Doctor Barton this morning?" Mom asks, her voice catching on "doctor" as she squeezes herself back in her seat. I dig in my blue cup, but not one chip is the right size. "The eating disorder specialist?" I say.
Mom lets her forehead drop into her open hand, scrunching her neck into dewlaps. She hates when I say the words "eating disorder." But I'm good at what I do. They've never seen anyone live so long with it, not to mention deliver a baby. It's okay Geoff wouldn't marry me, it's okay. I only gained eight pounds during, and lost twelve after. "Yes," she sighs. "The specialist." I lean over and put my cup on the far corner of the bed table, away from the heat of the light bulb, but it makes me woozy sitting back up. I'm seeing double, so I have to talk to the empty space between the two of her. "Dr. Barton, the eating disorders specialist, says I have to change my relationship with food. Do you want to see?" I push up the sleeve of my polyester hospital kimono. There is a rubber band hanging from my wrist like a bracelet, and I slide it almost up to my armpit then down again. Like a magician's hoop over a floating girl, it never touches the skin. Does not move a single body hair. "Doctor Barton told me to snap it -- like this -- if I start to obsess." She looks away. Doctor James, my general physician, is at the door. He'd be a goodlooking man if he weren't going bald, and he looks tired tonight. I find the remote and turn off the TV. "You're glowing this evening, Cassy," he says, and picks up the chart clipped to the foot of my bed. "I don't like it when you get ecstatic." "I'm fine, really. Everyone here is so nice." I smile, even though it cracks my lips. Mom chokes on a mumbled word. Dr. James pats her shoulder, letting his hand rest on her brown cardigan. I lean over for my cup and let it drop out of my hand. Fingers of water glide to the edge of the table, then hesitate before diving to the floor, the ice a fractured pile by the lamp. Dr. James doesn't even notice. He looks up from the chart. "We're a little worried about some of these tests results. Have you experienced any unusual sensations in your chest lately, Cassy?"
"No, nothing. Nothing at all. I can't even believe I'm sick. I don't need anything." He turns a page of my chart and shakes his head. He hates what they do to me here, but he has no control over the forced feedings or the way the nurses weigh my bowel movements. Those are the rules. "Seven pounds is what you need," he says, tapping the clipboard with his pen. "You have to reach 90 pounds before I can release you, and only then if we get a clean EKG." "My fighting weight," I say, and giggle. Sometimes he laughs with me, but he doesn't now. Because she's here. She's squatting down on the floor wiping up the water with a paper towel. "May I talk with you a minute, Doctor?" she says when she stands up, smoothing her hair, arranging her face. A quick look at her watch. He steps back to let her out, as if there were a door to hold open for her. They are just outside in the hall, whispering, but I can be quiet too. I peek under the dinner cover again. Fish and pasta. I knew it! Slippery flat and buttery, with a little sprinkling of salty Parmesan. I grab a fistful. Not hot, not hot, but warm, like body temperature. I cram them all, every noodle, under the mattress. I look like I'm sleeping, but what I really want to do is laugh. That's so crude though. I'd be no better than the nurses. The night nurses are the worst. No control. Eating their Snickers when they think no one's looking. I can hear crinkling wrappers in their pockets when they take my blood pressure. Up close like that, I can imagine every meal they've had for days, granola with gummy raisins still sticking to their teeth, the yogurt with the sweet blue fruit mixed up from the bottom, the tuna melts with slightly burnt edges, and dripping mayonnaise. Their smell is their history. Mom comes back, stopping to read the red sign by the door, as if she's never seen it before. Calorie Count room. No food in or out without doctor's orders. She wipes her nose with a tissue she pulls out from her cardigan pocket.
"So is Dad going to stop in?" He doesn't always, but that's okay. But sometimes he comes up to see what's taking so long. "I don't know," she says. "I just don't know." She slumps down in her chair and balls up her tissue between her two hands, rolling it into a white rose. "Maybe he'll bring Angie too." She's so sweet. Just the right size, an even rosy layer of flesh on her bones. She doesn't mind when Mummy has to go away every once in a while for a "widdle west." She knows where the candy machine is, where they hide it in the bowels of the hospital. We have a game. I have to guess the dispenser lineup from left to right: Snickers, Milky Way, Nestle's Crunch, Reese's Cups, Reese's Pieces, Kit Kats, M&M's plain and peanut. As if Iâ€™d forget! The nurses like M&M's. They are always popping M&M's into their mouths when they think no one's looking. Mom presses her knees together and leans forward, as if preparing herself for a client presentation, selling luxury travel packages. She says she works at Great Escapes because she enjoys the challenge, but I know she does it for the money. Dad says it's okay as long as her job at home is done first, but I know how filthy everything is underneath, how far she lets things slide. "Your father and I have talked," she says. "And the doctor agrees, you're to quit your job. Working at the restaurant is too taxing on you right now, and you have to think of Angie." "I am thinking of her, I'm supporting her." "It's not even a job with benefits. If we didn't cover you, you wouldn't have any health insurance... for all this." She waves her hand at the IV dripping into my right arm from the bag, flowing through the tube, the needle, the vein. I used to be able to control the rate but now there's an alarm. The nurses hate me. "We've got it all worked out," she goes on and looks at her watch. "After you're released in a few days, you and Angie can move into the apartment over the garage. You can concentrate on getting well without the distraction of work."
How could I leave the stainless steel kitchen of Greendays? The smell of wet romaine in the morning when I wash the heads and arrange the salads, leaf by leaf, for lunch. Slicing butter into neat square patties. Arranging the cheese on the thick oiled board. Chevre coated in cracked pepper, sheep's curd patted into linen-colored cones. The bread, a baguette, the watersprayed crust obliquely slashed showing just a hint of the soft insides. I have the perfect serrated knife for the job. "Cassia, please don't look like that. I'm just asking for a little normality." "I don't want your normal." "It's not my normal. It's life." She touches her forehead with the tips of her manicured nails, the palest subtle pink, almost natural, but a more perfect color than nature could ever paint. "You can stare at me all you want with that look on your face," she says. "Talk to your father about it, he's in full agreement. We have to do something. You can start by eating your dinner." "I can't with you looking at me." "I'm not leaving until I see you eat." "I need salt." "It's been salted in the kitchen." "I need salt." She looks around the room, but of course there wouldn't be any in here. And the food cart is long gone. "If I go to the nurse's station for some, will you promise to be good?" "You don't trust me. A therapist once said that was at the bottom of it all." She opens her mouth to say something, but catches herself. She leaves the room. "Thank you," I call after her. I hear her heels squeaking hard on the linoleum floor, digging in. I check the dark reflection on the TV screen to make sure no oneâ€™s hiding out in the hall, then I reach under the mattress and thrill at the touch of the noodles. I grab as many as I can. Cold,
sticking together in a clump. There's a little lint, some fuzz, but that's okay. I shove them all in at once. I have to use the fingers of one hand to stretch my mouth wide while I stuff the noodles in with the other, and I feel a tiny crack splitting open in the corner of my mouth and taste blood. It's salty. Back against the pillow. I click on the TV and pretend to watch while breathing slowly through my nose, separating the strands with my tongue and teeth, letting each noodle slide down my throat, one by one. My jaw barely moves. Mouth. Throat. It's over. I hear the squeak of heels and she reappears, almost out of breath, almost, not quite, out of control. She looks at the covered tray, then at me. Her eyes glance over to the bathroom and check the bowl, the sink, the shower drain, all in a second, a single movement of an eye muscle. She places the shaker on my tray. "There." I remove the foil from the top of the grapefruit juice and drink a level teaspoonful to get the stench of noodles out of my mouth. I feel the glands under my chin tighten from the sour shock. I swish it around my mouth and let it sit in a puddle on my tongue until my throat relaxes and I no longer taste it. Then I let it slip into my stomach, drop by drop. When it's all gone I can speak again. "I wonder if they gave Angie Fig Newtons again for snack today." "Please eat." I lift the cover so that it blocks her view of the plate, so that she can't see that some of the noodles are missing. I unscrew the top of the shaker with my teeth and empty it all, covering the fish and the peas, to the very edge of the plate. I let the screw top fall from my mouth and onto the tray. Mom stands up suddenly and raises her hand as if she is going to strike me, but instead knocks the cover from my hand. "This is too much!"
The cover lands against the wall, then to the floor with a dull plastic clatter and rolls back to her, resting against her suede pumps, the ones that match her tweed skirt. I see the condensation of steam on the inside of the cover, dripping like tears. "You ruined my dinner," I say, and carefully place the shaker in the right-hand corner of the tray. It's quiet outside in the hall. A pulsing vein rises up on her neck, a soft blue corridor twisting and coiling with all the other valves, constantly feeding blood to her heart, and pumping it away. She takes a breath and then another, her features relaxing to their usual arranged state, the nostrils not bunched up, the eyebrows even, the mouth unpursed. She pats her hair, although not a single strand of silver-blond has come loose from the stranglehold the tortoise-shell barrette has on her scalp. "I've got to go now," Mom says politely, draping her coat over one arm, like a flat dead animal. She looks at her watch. I can see where the leather strap digs into the gathered flesh at her wrist. "Your father will be expecting dinner." "What are you making him?" She leaves. As soon as I hear the elevator doors shut her out, I feel the first twisting of my guts like a tourniquet. Stop it, stop. I know I will have to soon, but I can wait. I count to five hundred by fives. Then one thousand by tens. Then that fluttering in my chest. If I don't now it'll be harder later. I reach behind the pillow for the plastic bag, and scrunch myself small in the corner of the bed, where the nurses can't see when they sashay by. I force the noodles back up out of my stomach without making a sound, all neatly falling into the small bag. I have to swallow some back down because they don't all fit, but that's my fault. I forgot to take the silverware bag at lunch. That'll teach me. I slip the rubber band off my wrist and tie the top of the soft warm bag with it. I hide it under the sheets with me while I move the tray to the bottom of the bed. The salt hasn't melted so I pour the rest of the grapefruit juice on it until all the crystals dissolve. I wonder about the
peas, so I take a few for later, hiding them in the wet tissue Mom has left on the table. The tissue smells like her, Chanel 19. When I was a little girl I hated that oily smell in the hall; it meant she was going out, taking Dad and leaving me for the night. It's okay now though. I'm fine. I stand up, a little dizzy, and reach under the covers for the bag, still warm to the touch. I lean on the IV trolley, wheeling it along with me to the window. The sky is a solid purplegray. No stars. It must be more than night; it must be overcast as well. I tilt the window towards me. It only opens a few inches, but the chill night air rushes in. I breathe in deeply through my nose. There is nothing from the kitchen vents. Food service is over. I twist to squeeze my left arm through the open slot of the window, so I can throw the bag over to the flat roof, near the other bag from breakfast that the crows have ravaged. Someone walks out from under the canopy directly underneath, five stories down. Mom? I pull my arm back in. She must have been talking with the doctor this whole time but now she turns and looks up, searching. I am far away and only a silhouette, so she can't be sure. At the other end of the parking lot a small figure moves under the street light. It's Angie, balancing like a tightrope walker on the low retaining wall near the exit. Her arms are held straight out in her puffy pink jacket, trying not to fall, and even though her back is to me I can see her warm breath rise above her head, like a halo. Nearby is the green Buick with the interior light on, the car where Dad sits reading. I can't see his face, only a flash of white hand on the newspaper. Mom thinks she sees me. Her bare fingers wiggle. She did forget her gloves. The limp bag weighs my arm down, the warm mass forming to fit the inside of my hand, as if it were a part of me, as if it grew there like a pulsing, internal organ. I can't seem to let it go. I hold on even tighter, but then I squeeze too hard, forcing the insides out, leaking through my fingers, until it all falls apart in my hand. It's gotten cold. And I'm so very hungry.
Karen Blanch Â
Parts of a Whole Jess Rockeman
The fingers were a part of me just like my baby teeth were a part of me, my nose piercing was a part of me, my virginity was a part of me. They belonged to me like my childhood, my husband, my daughter, like the baby who spent twelve weeks cupped in my womb. Yes, they belonged to me, but eventually, they had to leave. “Mama,” Ava said in her plaintive, high voice, holding up her tiny fist. That was as fussy as she ever got—just a one-word whine, alarmed and quiet. A white scratch ran from the bottom of her thumb to her wrist and with her other hand she held up one of her hard board-books, apparently the deadly offender. I hobbled over the carpet on my knees, dodging Barbie dolls and toy cars, and held her hand to examine the small scratch. A swell of blood welled up at the edge of the cut and I dabbed it with the sleeve of my black hoodie. “Uh oh, what happened? Did you get mad at the book?” Ava smiled, showing her missing teeth. “No, the book got mad at me. Bit me.” I swung her up in my arms, her hair ticking my neck. “Let’s get you all cleaned up, huh? Then we’ll battle that book once and for all.” “Do you have Hello Kitty Band-Aids like Daddy?” Ava kicked her legs merrily against the toilet as I plopped her down on the seat cover. She cradled her hand like a wounded kitten against her chest, careful not to let the blood touch her pink tee shirt. For a kid, she wasn’t squeamish around blood. I ignored the pang in my chest and opened the medicine cabinet. “No, sorry sweetie. But I do have Scooby-Doo. Will those work?” I picked a purple one covered in tiny Mystery Machines. “Sure,” she said, but I could tell she wanted Hello Kitty, so I made a note to ask Teddy which ones he bought when he picked Ava up. I dabbed her scratch with a bit of gauze before smearing some antibacterial cream on the Band-Aid. “You little girls, always getting all banged and bruised. Did I ever tell you how I fell out of a tree when I was ten and scratched all the skin of my arm?” I slapped my forearm, trying to distract her from the lingering sting of antiseptic. “Grandma had to wrap my whole arm up.”
Ava laughed, examining her new Band-Aid. “Does she still do it?” I tucked the cream and Band-Aid box back into the medicine cabinet, knocking over my prescription bottles. I closed the door before they could fall. “Does she still do what?” Ava looked at my left hand, eyes calm, like she was seeing everything there was to see and nothing was out of place. “Does she still have to wrap you up when you lose them?” When I’d cut first finger off, the pinkie, the innocent and slender pinkie, I made the mistake of going right for the root, cracking the bone like celery with a kitchen knife. The blood pooled on the kitchen tile and I felt that same relieved exhale, the feeling that the pieces were falling into place, but I knew I had to hold my cards a little closer to my chest if I wanted to get away with it again. And I did—the ring finger went next, severed at the first knuckle that time, because I wanted to keep my ring. It looked nice on the inch-tall nub of skin, though ironically enough, I didn’t need to wear it anymore after that. Ava looked up at me with waiting blue eyes and I clenched my left fist and felt only the sparse curl of my thumb, index finger, and half of my middle finger against my palm. “Since I’m a mama now, I don’t need my mama’s help. I wrap them up all by myself.” She hopped off the toilet seat, still looking at her new Band-Aid. “How come they keep falling off?” My fingers were like leaves in autumn to her. In Ava’s eyes, I didn’t throw them away, they left me for better places. They abandoned me. For as long as I could, I would let her think that. “Come on, let’s go make lunch. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, your favorite.” Ava took my hand—my left hand, my half-hand, and she didn’t even flinch. My chest ached, I loved her so much. “Will they all fall off? Why do they do that?” I led her to the kitchen and sat her on a dining room chair. I always liked kneeling at her level and looking her in the eye; I wanted to be as close to her as possible. I took her hands and let her lace her chubby fingers through my own in an endless, aimless cat’s cradle. “Sweetheart, I’m not really sure if they’ll all fall off. But I don’t need them, you know. In fact, I feel better when they’re gone.” She raised her eyebrows, upper lip pinched like she was thinking too hard. “Really? But I need mine! I need them to draw, and ride a bike, and play T-ball with Daddy. Don’t you do those things?” I smiled, brushing a curl out of her eyes. “Of course. But I still have this one,” I said, waving my right hand before returning it to her grasp. “I can do everything I need to do with
this one.” I could tell she wasn’t appeased, but I pecked her on the cheek and moved to the small kitchenette. “I know you’re hungry, Ava May. Let’s make lunch. Do you want grilled cheese or PB&J?” I looked at the clock—we only had an hour left before Teddy came, and I didn’t want to spend it talking about my fingers. “Will mine fall off?” Ava’s voice was my favorite thing in the world, breathy and curious, and it hurt like a physical blow. My hands stilled over the can of soup at the stove and I sucked in a breath before turning on my heels and crouching next to her again. “Listen to me, Ava. These,” I said, taking her tiny hands again, feeling their warm pudginess, their childhood perfection, “are good. You need these. There is nothing wrong with them. Do you understand?” I tried to imagine gaps where her fingers used to be and felt dizzy. “You don’t have to lose them.” She nodded, frowning. I stood again, swiping my blonde hair over my shoulder. “Okay. Okay, let’s have lunch.” Until I was diagnosed with an amputee disorder, I never realized how many things my left hand had touched until half of it was gone. There was an entire history wiped away from my body, a clean pocket of air that once held texture, sensation, experience. Pink fingernail polish shared at sleepovers with my childhood friends before we got our periods and became serious women. Sweaty grips on pencils during a panic-inducing standardized test in the Center High school gymnasium. Scraped knuckles after throwing a punch for my friend Susan who got called a slut in the girls’ locker room. The silky-hot skin of Teddy’s cock, circled lovingly in my grip, and the rasp of his fiveo’clock shadow against the pads of my fingers. The caress of Ava’s head when she was two weeks old against my cupped hand. Practicing counting with her, fingers unfolding like petals from my closed fist—“one, two, three…” Ava was five now, she could already count. I didn’t need them all anymore. Scars from bulimia, from cat scratches, from razor blades. Knicks and gashes, accidents, anger. It had gotten too deep, their touches. It wasn’t just skin. It ran to the core of me, to the muscle and bone, to the blood, and it was starting to burn. You can’t extinguish the whole fire at once, but you have to take action before the frame collapses. “I found these on sale,” my mother said as she breezed into my apartment later that day. I already regretted buzzing her up—the meeting only put me on edge. She thrust a plastic bag at me and I took it with one hand, keeping my left hand carefully tucked into my
hoodie pocket. “Hopefully you’ll wear them more than you wear those nice leather ones I got you for your birthday.” She opened the kitchen cabinets and cupboards and saw the empty cereal boxes, take-out containers, and unused dishes. “You’re thirty-two years old, Jenny, have a well-balanced meal once in a blue moon.” I sighed and curled up on the couch; there was no use arguing with her when she was on a mission. I used to love shopping for food—the feeling of plump fruits and damp vegetables in my hands, the satisfaction of checking an item off the list. I always took Ava with me; she loved riding in the well of the cart among the cans and boxes. My mother leaned over to look at me in the living room. “Try on those gloves. I already fitted them for you.” I knew she wouldn’t leave until I complied, so I grabbed the bag and pulled out a pair of sleek red suede gloves. They were nice, but they were fundamentally flawed in a way that all of my mother’s glove-gifts were. I squeezed at the ends of the left-hand glove and felt prosthetic forms. “Mother, I can’t wear these.” She came into the living room. “Why the hell not? Those are nice.” I never wore her gloves—she knew it, I knew it. She just didn’t accept it. “They won’t fit.” Mother sat down across from me. “Yes they will. I got the forms for you, the ones your doctor recommended. You can get them online now.” With my free hand, I brushed my hair away from my eyes and sat up on the couch. “Mom, don’t panic, okay?” Once I said it, her shoulders sagged; it looked like I put ten years on her already weathered face. “Jenny, sweetie. Not again, not now, please.” I slid my hand out of my hoodie pocket and held it up, letting it face the early-afternoon sunlight coming through the apartment balcony window. It had healed nicely, it always did, and god, it really looked perfect; it cut a gorgeous silhouette against the living room wall. The thumb and index finger looked fine, and then my fingers started to slant—gone was the top of the middle finger, half of the ring finger, and all of the pinky finger. The middle finger was the newest, just a small slice, a small subtraction of fingernail and a little skin and bone, but it felt amazing. Ava barely even noticed—it was never the first thing she noticed about me when she saw me every other weekend. My mom sighed, her chest heaving, and tears pricked her eyes. “Does your therapist know? What about Teddy?”
I shook my head. “It was…sort of spur-of-the-moment. I did it last week. I have an appointment with Dr. Roth tomorrow, I promise.” I laid my half-hand over my knee and with the index finger on my disgustingly whole right hand I traced the fabric of my jeans that showed through the gaps of missing fingers. It was like touching cool water, an endless well. My mom pressed her palm to her forehead and looked out the window, away from my hand. “Jesus Christ, you did it by yourself? In here, in the apartment?” I did; I was proud of it. I may have a disorder but I’m not a masochist. I knew what knife to use, which bandages to buy. I knew how to stop the bleeding and cauterize the wound; it healed in a few weeks. Besides, it was only a fingertip—above the top joint, through the flexor tendon, neat, quick, clinical. Only a shimmer of pain and a shot of blood and then it was gone and I could exhale again. “I’m fine, seriously. I feel really good today.” We sat in quiet for a moment. My mother never knew what to say, but she was a decently smart lady. When she didn’t know what to say, she said nothing at all. “And Teddy?” I swallowed hard. “I think he saw when he picked Ava up.” I knew he saw—he saw it with tired eyes, like he was watching something disappear into the fog, like he was watching something end. Mom crinkled the fabric of her khaki pants in her hands, knuckles turning an ugly white. “This is getting out of hand, Jenny. The deal was—“ “I know what the deal was,” I said, and took a deep breath. “Gain control of my disorder and I could have Ava every other weekend. But this is gaining control.” Mom closed her eyes. “Cutting your finger off for the third time does not constitute gaining control. And those people are insane, Jenny!” She knew nothing about the disease, she didn’t want to know anything. Every time I tried to give her information about BIID, she just looked away and bought me another pair of gloves. “The first time this happened, I understood that need…that need to feel something. I really did. I understand that you and Teddy didn’t want to try again, sweetie, a miscarriage is—“ “I don’t want to talk about that,” I said, my voice halting and foreign. She’d already been in the kitchen where I’d run out with my hands clutched between my legs three years earlier, fingers slipping around in the blood soaking through my pajama pants, screaming for Teddy to call an ambulance. She was getting too close. “You need to talk to Teddy about this. And you need to see a new doctor.” She scooted gingerly over to the couch, sitting next to me, wrapping her arm around me. “You still have Ava, Jenny. You don’t have to lose her. But you will if you keep doing this.”
I nodded. My Ava, my little girl with her daddy’s brown hair and her mama’s blue eyes, round-cheeked and cheerful. She didn’t mind my hand. She held it tightly even when the stumps curled awkwardly around her little fist. Someday we’d have to switch hands when I ran out of fingers, but I hoped I could hold off long enough until she could cross the street on her own. “I’ll try harder. I will, I promise,” I said, looking at my mother, curling into her exasperated, loving embrace. She stroked my hair, looping threads of it around her index finger like she always did when I was little, like I did to Ava when she fell asleep. My chest tightened when I realized that if I wanted to keep feeling the softness of Ava’s hair like that on my left hand, if I wanted it cool against the whorled prints, I’d have to keep my index finger. I’d have to keep it, and the thought was like a stone tied to my arm, pulling me to the bottom of the lake.
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi Suddenly I rushed to the basin With a bowel held tight, and Spasmodic tides started occurring near the navel The rhythmic mucus sticks out from the brook Filling my taste and smell with a sticky gel That gushed forth finally The deep cerulean bowl conceived The vessel got stained, and I got light Convulsive tides started now in my mind
I ingest nail polish remover to purge my tongue of your taste The memory of your wet lips suckling mine like a starving calf Corrodes my throat more than the acetone. I would prefer a saturated solvent high and a slow death To the sensation of your fingernails burrowing into my thighs Searching for fondness and a place to inject your seeds. I swallow my pride as a chaser for the McCormick Rinse my brain like bleach to a linen closet Overfill the cap and burn chasms into my skin.
How to Cope Leighton Meyers
“if you tried to be healthier, maybe you’d be worth saving,” perhaps then if the cancer incinerated me like HIV from the inside out she’d collect damages from the hospital’s unwilling apathy with all that fat, you can barely even see the problem anyway! crash and burn, crash diet into mania elation and trigger-burnt ecstasy skinny models tucked neatly under my mattress and between book pages food lists and calorie charts in three different places in the house— double pain double down in calories—does toothpaste have calories— polish my nails as if nothing would ever be able to destroy me
Â my best friend hates herself for binge-eating a week before prom, we make a plan and I am on my knees in her guest bathroom. ("solidarity!" I tell myself.) I hear her throwing up in the master bathroom, sour saliva webs my fingers, and I fantasize about dinner plans. ("Adolescence is hilarious", I tell myself.) my mother hasn't looked up from her computer in days, desperate, I kneel over and decipher the vomit like tea leaves. ("maybe she will hear me and remember that I'm here") she does and I pretend not to care. (my heart is malnourished.) there is no quick fix for expelling deep longing. (i hate myself for loving the attention) ten years have passed since a boy i hardly knew jokingly pointed towards a plus-sized clothing store and told me to go in. that single sentence has been on loop in my head for a decade. (i'm fine.) every mirror is a car crash. it took me twenty-three years to make eye contact with myself. my right eye--resilient and guarded. the left--my fourteen year old self, begging for forgiveness. i breathe in, pin up photos and fall asleep staring at images of voluptuous goddesses and warrior women flaunting scars like fine jewelry. one day i plan to marry my flaws. i will send personalized greeting cards to my cellulite. write haikus to the gap in my teeth. and make grand anniversary toasts to my mangled leg.
Excerpt from Inpatient, a novella Irene McGarrity
We pulled into the parking lot in my mom’s Chevette, and for a second it felt like the muffler was going to fall off. We jerked, buckled, and came to a stop. The tall, gloomy building in front of us looked like a prison. A nice prison. The grey color screamed ‘FACILITY!’ but there were lots of trees around. The grass was a couple shades too green, and not one blade was overgrown or even facing in the wrong direction. My mom yanked up on the emergency break and I pulled out a cigarette. “One for the road.” “Me too. Give me one of those.” Mom had quit a few months ago, but my first check-in at the psych ward had unquit her. She lit the cigarette and made a face. “How can you smoke these things?” Mom hated my Camel Lights. Her brand was American Spirit, the pretend healthy cigarettes. I took a deep drag and closed my eyes. There was a soft breeze blowing in through the window and the leaves on the trees around us shook, a sound like maracas. Or a rattlesnake. We sat there smoking and not talking. When we were done we went inside. The waiting room didn’t have any windows. A large TV was suspended from the ceiling. Everyone in the room stared at it except for an old lady whose eyes were closed. Her mouth drooped open revealing a neat row of dentures. I went around trying to decide who was checking in and who was visiting. The old lady was definitely visiting. There were two twenty-something girls that looked like me: skinny and kind of beat up. One wore too much make-up and had little tattoos all over that looked like pen doodles she had done while she was on the phone. The other had thin scars up and down her arms. Her lips were chapped and she kept dragging the dead skin into her mouth with her teeth. Definitely check-ins. I couldn’t decide about a middle-aged woman. She was put together with blow-dried hair and a nice button-down shirt that looked ironed. But there was something in her expression and the way her eyes darted around the room every few seconds. I put her in the check-in category. After a long time, a tall woman with tightly permed red hair appeared. “Renee Hall?” I stood up. “Yeah.” “Follow me.” She led me into a small office and then sat behind a desk. “Have a seat.” She had thin lips and big teeth. I sat in the chair across from her.
“When was the last time you purged?” Her skin was so pale I thought she might actually be a vampire. Her white hands were poised over the keyboard of a laptop. “This morning.” She typed. “How often do you purge?” “Ten times a day. On a good day.” “How much do you exercise?” “Three hours a day. If I can.” She looked up at me, her face just as expressionless as it had been in the waiting room. I wondered how many times a day she did this, how many gory details she took in and recorded on her laptop. “Sounds like hell.” I nodded and didn’t say anything. In the past I would have felt a certain measure of pride in her comment. Yes my life is hell. But in the moment, I felt self-conscious and out of my league. This woman had seen a lot worse, I was sure. She asked me a few more questions. “Current occupation?” “Student slash barista.” “What do you study?” It wasn’t a question on the list. She was just curious. “English literature.” “And what do you plan to do with that?” “Who knows? Probably nothing notable.” She laughed. “Okay, Renee Hall. You’re officially in. Get your stuff and I’ll take you upstairs.” I went back out to the car with my mom and got my duffle bag. She hugged me, smothering me with her giant boobs. It was as maternal as mom got. “Be good.” “You too.” I lit a cigarette and watched her drive away. After a few quick puffs, I tossed the cigarette on the ground and went back inside. **** I had been so hopeful moving into the new boarding house a few months ago. People I had never lived with, a toilet I had never purged in, a kitchen I had never stolen food from. A fresh start. A girl named Celeste from my Post World War II American Novel class lived across the hall. She was cute and chatty, friendly in a way that I hoped was flirty. The first night after I moved in, I sat outside on the front porch smoking a cigarette and imagining myself as a normal person. I was just a graduate student moving into a new place. I just happened to be thin. Anyone who walked by and saw me wouldn’t have thought anything
different. Two month later, though, everything was fucked. I was bingeing and purging all day, and at night I found myself in the kitchen shoveling food into my mouth that didn’t belong to me. I would try and replace the food. Easy when it was a box of granola bars. Hard when it was a half-eaten pie. And often I didn’t have the money. I’d wake up to STOP STEALING MY FOOD! notes shoved under my door. When I was in the bathroom vomiting, I’d hear someone come up to the door, try the handle, and groan. “She’s throwing up again. Gross.” Footsteps and then a bedroom door would slam. Everyone knew it was me. Celeste barely said “hi” in the hallway and she ignored me in class. Sometimes when I was feeling really low I’d go out at night and look through the garbage cans on campus. I found lots of half eaten bags of chips and oversized cookies with just a few bites missing. Sometimes I would slip into the coffee shop where I worked and grab a little money from petty cash to buy food from the all-night gas station. I told myself I’d pay it back on payday, but I never did. This was my third move in a year. Things were getting worse, not better. I called my mom, hysterical, and she told me to come home. On the drive, I cried and slammed my hand against the steering wheel. Anger, despair, anger, despair blinking on and off in me like alternating lights on a Christmas tree. I was lucky I hadn’t wrecked my car. I pulled into the trailer park around 11 PM and found her watching TV. Somehow she looked bored and overwhelmed at the same time. I collapsed onto her lap, still crying. She kept watching TV and let me cry on her. Mom had always struggled with her weight. She was up and down a lot. She never shared the actual numbers with me but I had found this weight journal thing in her bedroom once. At her highest, she had been 337. Some of the lower numbers were in the 220s. Growing up, I watched her go through phases of OA meetings, different diets, and consultations for gastric bypass. Because I was thin and because I threw up food, my problem was incomprehensible to her at best, and irritating at worst. “When is thin gonna to be enough, Renee?” she’d ask when I called her up, crying. After a few minutes, she put her hand on my back and patted me a little. She found me in the bathroom later chugging Nyquil. “What are you doing?” She grabbed the bottle away from me. “You’re gonna make yourself sick!” “I just need to sleep,” I said. “I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and start all over again.” She hesitated for a minute before handing me the Nyquil again. “Okay. Just be careful.” She stood and watched me take a few more doses.
Even with all the Nyquil, I woke up and was down at the fridge before I knew what I was doing, shoveling cold pizza and ice cream in my mouth. I purged and went back to bed. The next morning, when I came into the living room, my mom said, “You ate all my fucking ice cream, Renee! What’s your problem?” I sat on the couch, numb and ragged, and stared at the Weather Channel. And in this rainy time, we can all learn a little bit of patience reflecting on the drought of 2003. My stomach burned. My throat was raw from purging and chain smoking. “Start with step one. Admit you’re powerless over the food.” “Okay, I’m powerless. Now what?” “Oh, that was really convincing.” She grabbed my pack of cigarettes and took one. A little while later, I called my therapist. I hadn’t been to see her in a few months, so she wasn’t surprised to hear how badly I was doing. “I think you need to go inpatient. You’re out of control,” she said. “In an inpatient facility you’ll be able to break the cycle, get back on your feet.” She sounded like she was reading off of a card or a website, and I was reminded why I had stopped going to see her. In our sessions, she would read me inspirational quotes from this little book she kept on her desk. The book looked like something from the Barnes & Noble discount table. In the moment, though, I was glad to be talking to her. The robotic inspiration was comforting and I felt myself wanting to buy into it. “That’s exactly what I need. To get back on my feet.” She helped me find a place that was around 40 miles from my mom’s house. I called and they said they had spots. Mom and I left a few hours later. **** 7 South was a locked wing. That meant once you were in, you didn’t leave until you were released. No backpedaling or mixing with the schizophrenics. I walked in with my duffle bag and the giant metal door clicked behind me. A few women sat in a long hallway with a television at the end. They looked like they were my mom’s age--mid forties, early fifties. One was knitting and another was chewing her nails. The third woman slept with her mouth open. The two who were awake looked up at me and then looked back at the television. Nice warm welcome. The vampire intake woman led me into an exam room and handed my file to a nurse who looked like she hadn’t slept in a while. She wore scrubs with little Snoopys all over them and black clogs. Her name tag said DEB, and she looked like she’d been a women’s soccer coach before getting into the nursing biz.
“Have a seat on the table.” She skimmed my file and then checked my heart, blood pressure, pulse, eyes, ears, and glands. “Swollen. I bet I know why.” I nodded and looked away. My cheeks flushed. She scribbled a few things into my file and shoved her ballpoint pen into the front pocket off her shirt. “You’re alive. Just barely.” “Good to know.” Next, she wanted to checked my weight. “At 128 you’re not even underweight for your height really. When’s the last time you had your period?” “Three years ago.” She nodded like that was old hat. “You might need to gain weight if you don’t get your period, but for now, we’re gonna have you maintain.” “Fine by me. Can I go out for a cigarette by any chance?” “Sorry. Not for the first 12 hours. Then, after that, you go out four times a day on a schedule.” “That sounds like living hell.” She nodded. “Yeah, that’s kind of the idea. We don’t want you guys sticking around for too long.” She stood in front of me, hovering a little. It was very un-DEB-like. “Do you want a nicotine patch? It’ll help take the edge off.” “Sure.” I thought she would slap the patch on my arm like a fake tattoo, but she pressed carefully. “Don’t touch this thing, Okay? And if you do, wash your hands right away. And let me know if you get any heart palpitations.” I had missed dinner but not snack, which was low-fat yogurt with some kind of fake mixed berry flavor in it. I shoveled the gross-tasting stuff into my mouth and thought this is the end of me. We sat in the dining room for what felt like a really long time. Some people were still eating. Others were done and just staring into space like thin zombies. They need brains, I thought. Braaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiins. It wasn’t really funny, but I laughed anyway. The three other people at my table--the knitting woman from before, a thin goth guy I thought of as Jack Skellington, and a gaunt pre-teen with two pigtails--ignored me. I was jonesing for a cigarette. Finally they let us out and everyone headed towards the end of the hallway. “Commodes!” somebody shouted. “What’s going on?” I asked the pre-teen from my table. “Bathroom break.” She ran her hands up and down along her skinny, pale arms and
looked away from me. “Why are we all going together?” She shrugged. “That’s how it’s done here. They don’t want anyone trying to purge.” The girl reminded me of myself at her age, which I estimated at 10 or 11. All unfriendly intensity. In the bathroom, I didn’t notice the missing doors on the stalls at first, not until I saw three girls go in and pull their pants down. They squatted almost in unison. Something is weird about this. When the first one wiped, I got it. I can see them. Why can I see them? A Jamaican lady, Geraldine, who introduced herself to me as “staff” walked into each stall, looked into the bowl, and wrote something on her clipboard. After she finished writing, the girls picked up the white plastic thing that was inserted in the bowl, and dumped the pee into the toilet. “Make sure you get all your pee inside the hats, ladies.” When I got into the stall, I noticed the little numbers inside the white plastic things. They were measuring our pee in giant measuring cups. I squatted and tried to go, but nothing came out. “I don’t think I can.” “Stage fright,” said Geraldine. She scribbled something on her clipboard. “If you need to go in the middle of the night, someone can let you in.” The commodes, apparently, were kept locked. We went into our rooms and changed into our pajamas. Mine were sweatpants and a tshirt with a faded star on the front, stuff I had just grabbed in my frenzy to get to my mom’s house. An older fifty-something lady walked in while I was changing, and I realized in the same way I had with the bathrooms that there were no doors on the bedrooms. She plopped down on one of the beds. “Carmen,” she said. It took me a few seconds to register that she was telling me her name. “Renee.” Carmen was a short woman. Her legs dangled over the edge of the bed and she swung them back and forth. “You snore?” “I don’t think so.” She patted her hair, which was a few different shades of orange. Too many bad dye jobs. “I’m a light sleeper. If you snore, I’ll wake up. Then I’ll wake you up. Got me?” “Sure,” I said. Carmen seemed to think we were bunkmates in jail. “Anyways, who checked you in?” “I did.” “My husband checked me in. I was just tryin’ to lose a few pounds.” She looked a little
healthier than some of the other women I had seen, but not by much. “Guess I lost too many and he got freaked.” I nodded. I didn’t know what to say. “You got kids?” “No. You?” “Yeah. Three. The oldest one is about your age. The first time I caught her throwing up, I swear, I wanted to fucking kill myself.” I looked down at the cheap carpet and saw a faded stain near my foot. Vomit, I guessed. Or maybe urine. I felt Carmen mining my face for a reaction. I didn’t want her to know she had shocked me, so I tried to keep it straight, nonchalant. “Don’t have kids while you’re like this. You think they don’t see what you’re doing, but they do.” Carmen stuck two little earplugs in and pulled the thin, shabby blanket over her head, ending the conversation as abruptly as she had started it. “Night,” “Goodnight.” I climbed under the covers and tried to push Carmen’s bedtime stories out of my mind. The lights went out a minute or two later. At first, I had been glad I missed dinner, but with no cigarettes to kill my appetite, my whole body cried out for food. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, adrenaline coursed through my body. I have got to get out of here. I closed my eyes and tried to let the horror subside. I listened to Carmen snoring and I thought the first time my mom caught me purging. “I knew it! You’re a fucking cheater, Renee. If you’re gonna use food as a drug, you need to own up to it, let the world see what you’re doing to yourself. You can’t have it both ways.” Something gave up in me an hour and a half after lights out. The electricity coursing through me slowed and my mind began to drift. I saw peaceful, quiet things. I’m lying down at the beach and I feel the breeze on my skin, the sun. I only fell off the cliff twice, and each time I jerked awake, I brought myself back to the beach, back to my arms and legs, which were so thin, they were almost invisible, back to the sun and the warmth, the relief of that light breeze, and at some point I drifted off to sleep.
Love Poem Part 2 Joanna Rosenberg
Nobody knows my teeth are weapons. My legs pop out of my shorts garishly, what are they doing looking so thin again I told them no but they said they wanted to be birds which have such ugly legs, really, but they are beautiful because they are easy to snap. You’re crazy! I hear. You’re a person! Actually, I’ve been thinking lately I might like to melt into the sea, might like to feed the fishes. Really I have sharpened my teeth by throwing up. The acid wears them down, to points, so someday I will be certain nothing can get me. My organs might get confused-if the seawater swells the veins in my hand for your raft I’d be honored to have been the me with you. Do you know that in the holding of two hands there might be the view from some other time: amid bright shades of green and blue there is a small version of me asking a small version of you how you are and can we learn this night together
iâ€™m not sure this is working Joanna Rosenberg
It's weird i feel calmer after heart fireworking eyes throbbing bile tears swandiving down my cheeks, swollen and new it's adrenaline, i hear, it's dopamine released, it's cleansing, it's raw and newborn knowledge that i am no more because i am a master at expelling and too soon i expel myself and i am very good at dying and i am very bad at dying just like everybody else i know
Clunk Tessa Gilles
Clunk. That’s the sound as you lift the toilet seat and it sort of bumps against the back. Clunk. You hear this sound every day, three times a day, all seven days in the week. Now the sound is like your name, you respond to it, your whole body. You fight back at first, rocking back and forth on the floor, not caring how dirty it may be. Heaviness settles in your chest, you breathe harder. This will hurt just a bit. You’ve been trained to take it. You stick to purging. Let’s see, today was oatmeal and a banana (taken care of), then soup and a sandwich (taken care of), and now dinner: A salad, two slices of lasagna, four slices of garlic bread, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to make it all easy (in progress). You whisper into the bowl, smell the lingering bleach, “This is the last time.” Every time since the first time was supposed to be the last time, but here you are on your knees, the blisters on your ring finger rubbing against the back of your throat. Stop. You realize the water isn’t running. You need water running, the sound of busy pipes, to cover the sound of coughing and splashes, and plunks. A security blanket you can’t go to the bathroom without. You turn, nudge the handle at the sink with a flick of your wrist, with four fingers stuck together like in a mitten. You learned about the water in a movie. You learned about clunk, cough, plunk, splash, in the health books that Mrs. Miller assigns. You wonder if anyone else is learning as much as you, if anyone else has an A for their extracurricular experiments. Self taught. You don’t want to do this. You hate the smell of your meals coming back up, rinsed in stomach acid, putrid. It’s the same argument every time: It hurts. You’ve lost twenty pounds so far. My breath will smell. What do you think mouthwash was invented for? You wish you weren’t so big. Why did you have to take up so much space?
There are girls in school, with twig legs and no boobs. They can play in gym class, and wear the clothes the boys like. They look at you when you wear their clothes, and they laugh, or say their outfit looks better on them. It does look better on them. Yes, good, keep thinking mean. “Put down the fork,” your brother told you. That’s the latest, that’s why you’re in here now. “Maybe you shouldn’t wear tight clothes if you think you’re fat,” your friend Jordan said yesterday. But baggy clothes take up more room, make your chest and stomach look bigger. You always look bigger in the mirrors. You avoid them. Keep your head down in the girls’ room: Linoleum, stall, linoleum, sink, paper towel. You avoid blood shot eyes, your thinning hair, and puffy face. “You’re so mature for your age,” your second period History teacher tells you after class discussion. Two syllables, starting with the letter M: Manic. Remember when you left your homework at home by accident, and you sat on the floor in Science class, crying because you didn’t have it. You didn’t want a bad grade, you sat crying in the middle of class. Right on the checkered floor, between the rows of seats, occupied by classmates. Remember embarrassment. Remember how it felt to be the only girl in your group who wasn’t asked to dance at winter formal. Remember falling in the hallways on nothing more than air, a miscalculated step, and wondering how much of your school felt the tectonic plates shutter. An 8 on the Richter scale. Now they’re really pouring in, the words. Fat, big, “get on a treadmill”, “put the fork down”, “You? You want to play a sport?” Sometimes they say it’s a shame to be fat with a pretty face. They say it’s a waste. You’re a waste. Do it already. What if you went for an extra-long run tonight? What if you didn’t eat all day tomorrow? What if you didn’t eat all day tomorrow and go for an extra-long run? You want to avoid the burn. You hope that it’s all coated with vanilla ice cream. You hope that the sight and smell of it will be enough this time, that you won’t have to keep your finger in your throat. Mom is starting to notice your fingers.
The dentist had to schedule two separate appointments to fill all of your cavities. He tells you to floss more. You floss until your gums bleed, you brush with baking soda, and you use whitening strips and mouth wash. You chew gum. You notice the blood in the sink every time you brush. You notice the number on the scale at the end of the evening, and how it matches the number in the morning, or on the bad days when it doesnâ€™t, or on the even worse days when you are too scared to get on so you skip every meal, and go running in the black jogging suit. Yesterday, you went for a run in the black jogging suit. Today needs to be taken care of. You lean forward, holding back the few loose hairs with your free hand. With the other, you point at the problem down your throat, and take care of it.
You Could Call This Another Father Poem Kierstin Bridger
You want to live less off the gleam of porcelain than the digital numbers looming above “Not Really a Waitress” red toes. With every fiber of your skull muscle. you know it’s better to savor the apple skin, the plum’s dried candy, the flax bar after a steep ascent but the lure of the pill, the purge, the push-through-it gnaw, rack your gut. It’s the bad lover you unfurl your top sheet for time and time again, burrowing in. You’ll make it your bitch this time, you say, tighten the cuffs, cinch the silk ties, think you’ll tame this demon with a whip but the after-climax smoke of your will turns to toast, turns to some kind of bacchanal— It’s spinning plates of feast and repulsion, a hunger that wolves at you, smells your honey-dripped fear. It’s balsamic, aged and syrupy. It coats your days, you try to hide it, like a bad stripper name but it dresses you down, says, who’s your daddy now?
Ideas of Perfect Beth Konkoski
One college semester, I find perfect. A 4.0 for my parents- perfect. In the dining hall many trips through line: eat just what I like without fear, perfect. Then flush it away in some quiet stall. See the pounds fade and dream myself perfect. When I was young my dad called me sweathog: My size, my sway, my looks not so perfect. I rush at mirrors to hate what I see and scan the room to guess who is perfect. In my head is a map of campus bathrooms. Empty science wing or dorm, the cool hush of tile, perfect. Breath mints and mouthwash can hide just so much. Yellowed teeth ask a question of perfect. But experts claim this is not about weight. I laugh, my jeans are a fit that is perfect. The scary thing is it makes so much sense. How can I trust myself to know perfect?
Crack a Smile Deborah Majors
With his squinting-one-eyed smile, Daddy dubbed me fat. I was six. It was Thanksgiving. Smiling, he told me my feet were poets, they were Longfellows, so leave the saddle shoes and wear the blue boxes home. With that smile, he called me The Acne Child. Heâ€™d bellow it out like it was a super-heroâ€™s name. One time, he said he loved me. But he smiled.
When I Knew I Was Getting Really Fat Deborah Majors
I knew I was getting really fat when I bought one of those huge blue exercise balls, but when I sat on it, well, that’s all I could do—sit on it. I knew I was getting really fat when I was using the magnifying side of the mirror but I didn’t know it—It looked perfectly normal. And when I separated my boobs, But I still couldn’t see the numbers on the scale. And when my three year old said he wanted to marry a girl just like me—one with a fluffy, giant pillow for a tummy. I knew I was getting really fat when I had to trade in my mini-van because the steering wheel wouldn’t lift high enough to keep from chafing my belly—I called it “on-the-road rash.” And when I sat on my man’s lap and he, sucking air, wheezed, “Call 9-1-1…” When I had to beg for a table and not a booth because squeezing into a booth makes the eating surface simply a resting place for D-cups, not teacups. I knew I was getting really fat when I couldn’t find the cat, and then I found him, and the whole time, I thought it was just another wedgie! Seriously, I knew I was getting really fat when after baring my depressed soul to a friend, admitting that my self-deprecating “fat humor” was a cover-up, she tried to comfort me by telling me how great I am, what a big personality and brutally-huge sense of humor I have, reminding me how weighty and humongously important it is to stick with the gym three times a week, that it’s a massive commitment to faithfully attend those Weight Watcher’s cattle-calls, and always remember to have a stout attitude by, as she said, “Keeping my chins up.” “Cattle-calls! Chins! Chins?! Why you skinny little anorexic, emaciated, malnourished, scrawny sack of skin!
Get out!” I yelled with massive commitment. I was so glad I was a plus-size, weighty woman when I could grab that sliver of a chickie by her shirt collar and she couldn’t make me or my big personality budge an inch as I threw her out of my house, roaring at the top of my grande lungs for all the neighbors to hear: “At least I don’t have to shave any of my chins like some people I know, Schick-Chick! And—and—and how’s that for a brutally-huge sense of humor?” I slammed the door, marched to the kitchen, wiped my eyes, grabbed the Haagen-Dazs from the freezer, sat cross-legged on the couch, watched the new Zumba exercise infomercial on my brand-new jumbo flat screen TV, and had an enormously good time!
I haven’t always been fat, but no one wants to hear about that. People aren’t interested in the fact that I used to go to the grocery store without strangers peering into my cart to see if I was buying junk food. When I was slim, no one rolled their eyes if I was browsing the ice cream flavors. When I was slim, tips for toppings were offered: toffee bits, marshmallows, pralines and m&ms. Now, toothpick-size women wearing Curves t-shirts try to herd me with their carts toward the Weight Watchers section as their good deed for the day while they slip Nutrisystem coupons in my pocket, and when they think I’m not looking, toss a few frozen Lean Cuisines into my buggy. They don’t know that I can hear them when they whisper, “But she has such a pretty face.” They don’t know that I’m walking over 2 miles a day and go to the gym 3 times a week. They don’t know I once had a great-aunt who lived her last years on the couch because she was so huge that’s all she could do. They don’t know the ice cream isn’t even for me.
Ira Joel Haber
Deafened By Fat Patricia George
I was watching her conduct the choir With every powerful downbeat the skin on the under part of her arms flapped back and forth I could no longer hear the singing wishing she had worn a long sleeved blouse Really, what did it matter? A pity that ingrained judgments from my upbringing on what the body should and should not look like cause me to find fat more interesting than beautiful music
The Benefit of Portion Control Mindela Ruby
Pleasuring yourself with food is harder than it looks At first a scrumptious substance feeds a hunger But you eat too fast And mindlessly serve yourself a second helping Self denial follows Or the flood gate opens to reckless gorging Any pleasure of sugar fat salt umami carb extinguished by excess In consumptionâ€™s aftermath youâ€™re stuffed. Empty. Defeated. Unfulfilled
The Feeding Ken Poyner
My sister is addicted to restaurants. It is not a harsh word: restaurants. It would be far harsher if it were cocaine, or alcohol, or sex, or gambling, or even croquet. No, it is restaurants. She can be distracted by an International House of Pancakes sign, or turned entirely off course by a Chili’s façade. It does not cause her to break entirely down, but it does get her mental connections going: she will make a note, and think to come back if nothing more interesting materializes. But it is an addiction, and all addictions are traveling to the same address. It is not fine dining establishments, or trendy bars. Places with discreet alcoves and exotic plants do not specifically tempt her. Oh, they are not out of the picture, but the cost is exorbitant, when a Max and Erma’s will do. In fact, even fast food restaurants turn out just fine, when she is careful. She must select one with an interior décor that will accommodate a four hundred fifty pound woman. Perhaps a place where in the booths the table can still be slid ever more perniciously forward; or one where a seat can be moved to the side; or where there are so few patrons at the time that one set of chairs can be moved out of the way so that one special chair can extend comfortably back from the counter. She is out nearly every night, cruising a selected restaurant strip, making a choice. Most places know her, and understand what she needs. Typically, there is a table that has enough empty environment around it that she can slip into, or a booth specifically made for a modern corpulent client such as herself. She knows the walk by heart. Once seated, she will pull out her stash of coupons, looking for bonus tickets, frequent patron cards, gift certificates she has earned through other purchases. The wait staff waits, giving her time to organize her stash. They bring a menu, though by now she has it memorized. All the staff know her, and are kind, but you should not think they approve. What are smiles and greetings on the floor, in the kitchen turn into incredulity and worry. “I cannot believe she is back already.” “She’s here. Get some extra butter for the broccoli.” “We will need more napkins.” “Last time the tip was ten percent. What do you want to bet she goes lower tonight? She has to be broke by now!”
And that is it. You cannot eat out every night and expect to keep a healthy bank account, and neither can she. Yes, if you are wealthy, or have a job that supplies you a steady stream of frivolous income. But, if you labor the day through, stitching together the practical matters of a sociable profession, you need to investigate the frugal. But she is an addict. Her credit cards have grown thin and exhausted and the equity in her home has been drawn out to buy new lighting and trick curtains and mood-enhancing cutlery for a dozen establishments. Next it is a lien on the car, and soon payday loans. Beware of the day she pays only in cash: the length of her patronage will then be short and full to the stew pot rim. It is not the food so much, nor the ambiance. I think the thrill that returns her to this release night after night is the simple act of being served. It is the transaction of being asked what it is she wants, and having someone spend un-indulgent time to make it appear: that fact crassly caressing some sensuously soft spot in her mind, hooking the addiction into a persistent desire for greater self-worth. The action feeds a false sense of self-importance, much as does tailgating while driving, or blocking an aisle in the grocery store, or completing any of those silly, senseless acts that scream “I am important enough to be a bother”, and cement for the individual his or her best chance at mattering to anyone in any way at all. “Here, waiter, what is in the rub they use with the grilled chicken?” “Waitress, are the shrimp served in the rice or on the rice?” “I can’t decide: the hamburger steak, or the hamburger sandwich.” “Why, you’ve changed the menu. I liked the old one better.” Each is a point of light painted on the inside of her dark universe. And she basks in that light, no matter how dim and small and resembling mere pin pricks the leftover glitter of it is. Waiters and waitresses, and even the manager now and again, smile, engage in speculation, simulate small talk, pretend they like the dish as much as my sister might. But it is not about liking the dish. It is about ordering, and having it come to this table; and about more people than can fit in a phone booth having to organize their time to make it all lash together as a commercial paean to this one paying customer. She has options, and everyone should know it. Where does this addiction end? Why, at the backdoor of a restaurant, of course. The house gone in foreclosure; the credit cards maxed out; the furniture in the street; the costume jewelry pawned; the best intentions of friends, expressed in small cash loans, entirely eaten away. The car, already under an order of repossession, will have the last quarter tank of gas in it that it is likely to see while in her service. A part time clean up man, or a buyer looking over the state of the lettuce, will see her: braced against the side of her car, straining with gravity,
the folds of her skin pushing at her clothing and her face thrust forward towards the restaurantâ€™s partially open backdoor, chins quivering and the eyes seething deep behind the mountains of her cheeks. He will think: the woman is looking for food. But he will be wrong. He will not know that still, coiling deep in the caverns that are the addictâ€™s misshapen and clear-as-a-bell-clapper brain, what she will want is a menu.
Contributor’s Notes Carolyn Agee is an actress and author living in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys knitting, international travel and entertaining friends in her spare time. Her recent and forthcoming credits include Petrichor Machine, The Healing Muse, and Recovering The Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing. You can visit her online at: http://www.carolynagee.com. Karen Blanch, aka Kiri Kitsune, is a visual artist who works with both traditional and digital media. She grew up in Spain, but currently resides in Colorado where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Emergent Digital Practices at the University of Denver. Her illustrative works often deal with surreal and emotive subjects as well as influences from Asian pop culture and comic books, specifically manga. In her work, she pursues a fusion of aesthetic beauty with emotional connection and story, most often employing depictions of the human form as the vessel to her worlds. Kierstin Bridger is a Colorado writer and winner of The Mark Fischer Poetry Prize and the 2015 ACC Writers Studio contest. She is editor in “sheaf” of Ridgway Alley Poems, co-director of Open Bard Poetry Series and contributing writer for Telluride Inside and Out. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fugue, The Lascaux Prize 2015 Anthology, Prime Number, Memoir, Thrush Poetry Journal, Mason’s Road, Pilgrimage, and others. She received her MFA degree at Pacific University. Queens, NYC native Audrey T. Carroll is a MFA candidate with the Arkansas Writer’s Program and graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Fiction International, Hermeneutic Chaos, Foliate Oak, WritingMaps’ A3 Review, The Cynic Online Magazine, and others. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter. Rebecca Cook’s novel, Click, was released from New Rivers Press (August 5th, 2014). She has published two books of poems, The Terrible Baby (chapbook Dancing Girl Press, 2006), I Will Not Give Over (Aldrich Press, 2013). Her essay, “Flame,”(Southeast Review), was a notable essay in the 2013 Best American Essays. She was a Bread Loaf Fiction Scholar in 2009, and has most published work in The Georgia Review, New England Review, Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Brain, Child, Atticus Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Gone Lawn Journal, BlazeVox, The Rumpus, the NewerYork, Menacing Hedge, Map Literary and Sequestrum. New work is forthcoming in Seneca Review and Midway Journal. She blogs at godlikepoet.com. Vernyce Dannells is a graduate of Radcliffe's Publishing Procedures Course, and her writing has been broadly published in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. Arcadia Publishing will release work she has written regarding Philadelphia's historic Overbrook Farms neighborhood in September 2014. Her chapbook Temporarily Abated is published by Honolulu's Cadenza Press. She lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June Desmond lives and works in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. She is inspired by her children and her fantastical surroundings. Ms. Desmond is a member of the prestigious Berlin Writers' Group. Christina Fulton graduated from Florida Atlantic University with her MFA in fiction. She is currently teaching at Miami Dade College. Her short story "Opere Roma" was published on the Wild Violets Literary website. Her book Dead Ends is available on Amazon.
Maria Garcia Teutsch is a at www.marialoveswords.com.
Tessa Gilles is currently an MFA Creative Writing student at Chatham University. When she isn't in class, she can be found in the Allegheny Cemetery, working on her nature blog. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her cat, Sassy. Patricia George has worked as a public school teacher and a tutor. She works as a piano accompanist for the local school choirs. She writes in all her spare time and paints in the summer when school is out. She has a B.A. degree from Fresno State University in California and has postgraduate credits from San Diego State University and Colorado State University. Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, writer, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in the USA and Europe and he has had 9 one-man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2006 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 200 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists' Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn. JoeAnn Hart is the author of the novels Float and Addled, and her short fiction, essays, and articles have been widely published. Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. Devin Longfellow is a twenty-five year old womyn who lives on the island of Hawaii. She spends her days searching under stones and bathing suit bottoms for that feeling of deja vu. Her spirit clings to silence, India, poetry, belly laughs, and all dogs everywhere. Andra Jenkin has toured as a performance poet in The Literatti, had some poems on CD and has just been included in an anthology of New Zealand women cartoonists 'Three Words.' She is currently writing a satire on self help books and co-writing a non-fiction account of an abusive relationship that ended in New Zealand's most notorious maiming for the woman who survived it. She is a feminist. Beth Konkoski is a writer living in Northern Virginia with her husband and two kids. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals including: Story, The Potomac Review, Mid-American Review and The Baltimore Review. Her chapbook of poetry, "Noticing the Splash" was published in 2010 by BoneWorld Press. She has work forthcoming in Saranac Review, Gargoyle, The Clementine Poetry Journal and Pamplemousse. Amy MacLennan has been published in Hayden's Ferry Review, River Styx, Linebreak, Cimarron Review, and Rattle. Her chapbook, The Fragile Day, was released from Spire Press in 2011, and her chapbook, Weathering, was published by Uttered Chaos Press in 2012. Her book, The Body, A Tree will be published by MoonPath Press in January, 2016. Amy is an editor for Cascadia Review and The Cortland Review. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.
Residing on 30 country acres in the Florida Panhandle, Deborah Majors is a wife and mother of two grown sons, a Pastor, and a member of Panhandle Poets Society. She has had poems and short stories published in Blackwater Review; Barefoot Review; Time of Singing; Haggard and Halloo Publications; Broken Publications' anthology Soul Vomit: Beating Domestic Violence; The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Deep South Magazine; ellipsis…literature and art; Big River Poetry Review; anthology called A Touch of Saccharine published by A Kind of Hurricane Press; Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace published by Lost Horse Press in its Human Rights Series. Her first collection of poems entitled Two Halves: Blooming Idioms and Haphazard will be out soon. She loves performing her poetry, cooking for friends and family, practical-jokes, and teatime. Irene McGarrity has been writing since the tender and awkward age of ten. She is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Her fiction has appeared in various publications, including DOGZPLOT Flash Fiction, Prima Materia, and Oasis Literary Magazine. She posts reviews, reflections, and other snippets of the reading/writing life at Metawriting. Irene is an Assistant Professor and Academic Technology Librarian at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Sarah McMahon is a senior English Creative Writing major at Bradley University. Her poetry has appeared in the campus literary journal 8 consecutive semesters, and has garnered attention at open mics in and around Peoria. One primary topic she explores via poetry is eating disorders-forms of which she struggles with personally. In addition to writing, she also runs Cross Country and Track for Bradley and enjoys life talks on long runs every Sunday morning. Leighton Meyers is a native to the southwest United States with a weakness for good characters and stray cats. Leighton loves to write disquieting pieces that bond art with "untouchable" subjects such as sexual assault and addiction. She has had poetry published in Torrid Literature Journal and Five Poetry Magazine, fiction published in Heater Magazine, and nonfiction published on the website for the London School of Liberal Arts. Ken Poyner has lately been seen in Analog, Café Irreal, Cream City Review, The Journal of Microliterature, and many other wonderful places. His latest book of short fiction, Constant Animals, is available from his web, www.kpoyner.com, and from amazon.com. He is married to Karen Poyner, one of the world’s premier power lifters, and holder of more than a dozen current world power lifting records. They are the animal parents of four rescue cats and assorted self-satisfied fish. Jess Rockeman is a creative writing/literature undergrad at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. She is originally from the suburb of Centerville, Minnesota. Jess is currently working on her fiction and poetry in the loving company of her friends at school and her two cats at home, and she enjoys music, coffee, and horror films. Joanna Rosenberg is a playwright and poet living in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the recipient of the Denis Johnston Playwriting Award for her debut play, Stella Dreams of Trains, and has been published by Jewish Currents. When she isn't writing or reading she enjoys yoga, rock climbing, and traveling. Mindela Ruby writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and prose-poem/micro-fiction hybrids. Her novel, MOSH IT UP (Pen L Publishing), about a punk rock sex addict in search of redemption,
came out in 2014. She earned a PhD at University of California, teaches writing at a small college, and moonlights as a developmental editor. Visit her at www.mindelaruby.com. Pamela Scott is 34-years-old and lives in Glasgow, UK with her partner. She works in a call centre in a support team. She has been published in various magazines including The New Writer, Carillon and Words with Jam. Her poems have been published in anthologies by Indigo Dreams Press. She has been shortlisted and won second place in various competitions including The Global Short Story Competition. Chloe Stricklin is a Bennington College MFA student who lives and works in Minneapolis. She is a 2013 graduate of Skidmore College, where she was awarded the Frances Steloff Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in Black Heart Magazine. Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi is university faculty and assistant professor of linguistics at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, India, and author of two books on lesser known Indian languages: A Grammar of Hadoti and A Grammar of Bhadarwahi. As a poet, he has published around fifty poems in different anthologies, journals, and magazines worldwide. Sara Walters holds a BA in English from the University of South Florida and is now a student in their MFA program. Once, she packed her life in three suitcases and moved to a place she had never been. Sometimes, she likes to write love letters to leave in library books, and is still patiently awaiting her Hogwarts letter. Her work has appeared in Embodied Effigies,Barely South Review, Sugared Water, and The Dying Goose, among others.
A literary magazine publishing writing and artwork focused on body image and eating disorders