Lanette Sweeney

Eleven hundred women woke up that morning

feeling fat, sluggish with sugar hangovers

or light-headed after three full days

of nothing but Lipton Cup of Soup

and Slim-Fast shakes.


They stepped naked on scales,

eyes half closed in prayer,

the bones of their toes white with fear

as they gripped the rubber-mats.

They drew their mouths down

and flared their nostrils,

turning quickly from the number

that set their day’s mood.


After, their bodies heavier than before,

they grunted into pantyhose

whose control tops reminded them

how out of control they were.

When they lay down to zip their pants

They wished they never had to get up.

They turned their heads from mirrors

or bent closer to them

squinting for signs of weakness.


They ignored the sun,

smoothed thigh-length jackets

around their hips,

hoping they looked thinner

than their reflections.

Those whose husbands hugged them

made it quick for fear the men

would feel the fat that bulged

where their bras dug into

their backs.


Uniformly swaddled,

they rushed to catch trains

and ferry bewildered children

who wondered all through

the pledge of allegiance

what they’d done wrong, again.


In those last few minutes,

inside those sleek columns,

they pressed their lips together grimly

as they raced past the donut stand–

or perhaps they stopped

and ate two chocolate ones

in six big bites, because

what the hell difference could it make?

In this case they were right.

No one tasted a thing.


Now, every one of those women

is weightless as ash.

All those years of dieting —

and finally, they are light as vapor.



Written when I was Pauline Uchmanowicz’s student, Lanette Fisher-Hertz, © 2002.












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Shawangunk Review Volume XXXII Copyright © 2021 by Lanette Sweeney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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