YOUR FAT DAUGHTER REMEMBERS WHAT YOU SAID
My dad was in the hospital cafeteria eating lasagna when I was born.
I was making lasagna at home when he flat-lined.
My mom has low blood pressure. My dad’s was high. And I
am a gymnastics school dropout
with an inherited need to redefine balance.
(I always sat immovable on the seesaw
with a pile of kids trying to dethrone me.)
I’m fifteen, telling my parents I’m gay. Dad says:
I know you think you are
cause you’re a bigger girl
and boys don’t like you.
I start a list of his remarks like this.
When his heart stopped for the first time, I was making lasagna
with my first girlfriend. (She was closeted and was supposed to be
somewhere else at the time—maybe on an elephant, eating cardamom
marshmallows and counting every lucky constellation
her father points out in the hot Mumbai sky.)
There you were when you were skinny as a rail! (Age 9)
Dad says this in front of my family when we watch an old video.
I am four in the video. I ask everyone
if they think this is an acceptable thing to say.
He didn’t mean it that way!
I remember knowing, at four, that he thought I was fat already.
(How fat can you be when you’re four?)
Lighten up, he’s just trying to encourage you!
Encourage me to what?
Choose a photograph from your hard drive and invert the colours.
Stare at it for thirty seconds. Close your eyes
and then open them in front of a flat white wall.
Now, each time you blink, you will see the photograph
as if it’s been branded on your insides.
I’m sure that somewhere a nun is doing this
with a digitized painting of white hippie Jesus.
She’s shrieking with vengeful glee, “That is the power of the holy spirit!”
The image is everywhere and nowhere, but it’s no spirit.
It is a matter of light and the physics of memory and
it is the way in which this list of comments reappears to me
each night and blink. Even if trauma is so last season.
You are going to trim your chin hairs
for your grandmother’s funeral.
Oh yes, you can see them.
I was noticing them in the light the other day
and it would mean a lot to your mother.
Get your sister to help you do it.
Girls don’t have chin hair. (Age 14)
My dad had wild white and black hair and a neck beard.
My mother’s family has curls that go Brillo pad in Atlantic air.
I have it all, from chin to chubby toes. How was I to know
that I ought to be ashamed
to be the heir apparent
to my parents’ hair?
You thought holy communion was a snack?
You would think that. (Age 6)
Months before he died, my dad carried a small portable cabin
through the woods with a buddy and said
If that doesn’t kill me, nothing will.
Irony is the new black, Dad,
and you know it’s slimming.
You’ll be 200 pounds
by the time you’re in grade eight. (Age 10)
I was eating smoked meat yesterday on the Boulevard
and noticed that the goods are measured on a silver scale
emblazoned with the slogan: “We Weigh the World.”
The same company produces a tool called a “strain gauge”
which indicates how much pressure is being put upon an object.
I saw a picture of a strain gauge glued across a crack in a brick house.
Am I the house or the gauge or am I the picketer with a placard that says
the possibility of collapse cannot be determined by formula—?
I’m sorry I’ve been so hard on ya.
Don’t want you to end up like me. (Age 18)
Lose weight was the last thing my dad ever said to me
but I don’t think it was the first.
The sea that crashes in my stomach is percussive
Dozens of Captain Morgan mickeys clinking as they bob atop the waves
A voice crying out for a recitation of the messages stuffed in those bottles
Heavy ambient ocean air that drowns them out
His last line echoed only with the empty-theatre hollowness of his own gut
With the hum of capsizing winds
passing over the beer bottles that sat in his stomach
that were jammed with his mother’s own abusive misspellings
and with fortunes that didn’t come true
Is it possible to hate a ghost
who has always already
I’m doing just fine.
I still check my vital signs when I microwave lasagna.
I rub my stomach when it gets choppy.
I eat lots of berries and dip my mozzarella sticks in ranch.
I’ve known since age four
how to distinguish a lightning rod from a switch
from an olive branch.
I have these dreams, though, where I’m floating.
Where I wave down to my chiropractor,
my old music teacher, and my dad.
All I know is that I’m going really far away
and when I wake up I can’t remember
if the dreaming-I was sad.
—from Rattle #44, Summer 2014
Lucas Crawford: “The summer after my father died, I didn’t leave my mother’s house for three months. Then I drove across rural Nova Scotia and went to a poetry camp in a town called Tatamagouche. I wrote for four days straight and drank three hard lemonades on the final night, even though I was underage. Two years later, I was doing a poetry reading in a sex shop with the leader of the workshop. My Catholic aunts occupied the first row, right next to the wall of dildos. Poetry is a genre of miracles. Even a PhD in English hasn’t yet dissuaded me from its lure.” (website)