Things Leftover from When I Was Ugly, by Elizabeth Austin
Stretch marks. Blackheads across the bridge
of my nose. Scars on my chin from picking, picking,
picking at dry disks of scab. Rough dark patches
on the insides of my thighs where they’ve been rubbing
all my life. Rolls on my stomach, rolls in the bone-colored skin
of my upper arms marked with red lines.
So much of my body touches parts of itself
that it shouldn’t. I’m doubled-over in bulges and folds,
lined like striped bass, fleshy and revolting.
Stretch marks, shiny and striated. Bruises like ghosts
where my mother used to pinch my stomach
in the bathtub when I was six, telling me
there’s no such thing as a fat ballerina
and when I stuffed my leotard and tulle into the back
of my closet she found it and tried to get me to dress up
for family who had come over. I stood
in the middle of the room feeling my body puddle
like urine on a carpet. Oversized front teeth.
An overbite. Swollen gums,
shiny and taut from years of infection
when it was too much to take care of myself.
Towels over the mirrors most days.
When I was seven I daydreamed about taking a knife
and slicing through the fat of my arms and stomach,
shearing it away in slabs, watching it run
in thick yellow globs, stitching the undersides
with black thread like wires. I still imagine it
in the shower when my stomach touches my thighs
as I bend over to shave my right calf.
Elizabeth Austin is a poet, photographer, and visual artist. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in the Schuylkill Valley Journal, See Spot Run, Foliate Oak, Driftwood Press, and Anti-Heroin Chic, and is forthcoming in 3Elements Review. She currently lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania with her two children.