The Penitent

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This is day I don’t know, and I don’t care of
the Ideal Protein Diet,
and just like any regimen of relinquishment and confession,
there are catchphrases
and hooks
that keep the penitent motivated to continue
traversing a path littered with sharp pebbles and rusty bottle caps.
Scabby knees and bloody palms propelling the seeker closer to

the promised land.

My “coach” smiles benevolently as I remove my socks
and step on the scale.

Her mantras:
“you’re melting”
and
“every pound has a story”
are meant to convey comradery  and conviviality.
We are soldiers
in this war against fat,
and I can “tell her anything”.

But I resist,
because I have already told those stories,
and my secrets died with my therapist,
which is both ideal . . .

and not.

Now I am here, in this strip mall
taking off my socks
in front of a stranger.
And the nail polish on my big toe
is chipped.
And I am melting

like the Wicked Witch,

while thousands of miles from here,
my mother is being eaten alive by cancer.

Maybe by the time her funeral rolls around
I will be thin,
but not too hungry for anything.

 

Seeing the Future

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My great-grandmother had a glass eye.
She only spoke a few words of English,
and our family legacy demands silence
about imperfection and difference,
so I never knew the truth about why.

Love – “milosc”
Grandmother – “babcia”
Immigrant – “imigrant”
Fear – “strach”

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the unspoken story of how she lost her eye,
and I was convinced that the glass replacement was imbued with special magic.
I though that owning it would give me powers of divination, or the ability to read minds.

I imagined sneaking into my grandmother’s room while she slept,
and snatching the milky orb from the small wooden box on the table next to her bed.
I wanted to slip the eye into the pocket of my Sears Toughskins,
and examine it privately,
under the leafy cover of the Italian plum tree in her backyard.
I longed to turn it over in my palm,
gaze into the future,
and search for clues about who I would become.

Love – “milosc”
Grandmother – “babcia”
Immigrant – “imigrant”
Fear – “strach”

We are always looking for easy answers to the big questions,
but the clues are often there all along,
lurking beneath the surface.

I wonder what ten-year-old me would have done with those easy answers anyway,
choking on sadness
while the sweet juice of Italian plums ran down my chin?
What would I do with the prior knowledge of this day?
This day, when our country has become a reality show.
And blame is placed upon an orange man with bad hair and tiny hands,
because we don’t want to acknowledge that the hate has been here all along.
Hate, whose roots run so deep we have forgotten that we took part
in the planting of the seed.

Love – “milosc”
Grandmother – “babcia”
Immigrant – “imigrant”
Fear – “strach”