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
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.