Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017: Artist’s Choice
Image: “Portrait of a Kitchen” by Samantha Gee. “My First Body Is Beautiful Until” was written by Reese Conner for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.
MY FIRST BODY IS BEAUTIFUL UNTIL
On the kitchen floor, years ago,
peeled potatoes roll, slippery
as skulls—all the ugliness
sticks to their wet flesh and
it’s hard not to see analogy in that.
I tickle static into my first body—
it rises brightly, rises from the kitchen
and begins to tend to half-crescent stains
on counters, to supper dishes in the sink,
to routines necessary even in nostalgia.
I begin making mashed potatoes. I start
by peeling, scalping with a knife.
It’s fun to see how perfectly round
I can make them. They feel so slick
to shift in my hand. My first body
is a celebration of touch because
my first body has no reflection—
it has not been urged to see one yet.
It is my birthday and I am about
to try on a new pair of checkered
pink pants. But they don’t fit.
My hips are too wide now
and I trip trying to squirm in.
The thud calls my grandmother,
who comes expecting something
broken, but finds, instead,
my first body for the last time
and offers it its first reflection:
And aren’t you chunky.
All this while, the ancient skulls hide
beneath the refrigerator. I left them there
because they were broken
the moment they kissed earth. Like
all disappointments, they deserved
a hiding place, so I nudged them.
—Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017
Comment from the artist, Samantha Gee, on this selection: “I was struck by the delightfully macabre imagery as well as the disconnect of the narrator’s existence in the temporary body. A lot of the poems I read made reference to the faded figure in the center of the painting as a ghost and faded memories; I thoroughly enjoyed how this poem puts the reader in the figure’s shoes as they take their first curious steps.”