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The Confessionalist Booth

From the Desk of a Former Angsty Teenage Poet

“When the Skinny Girl Stays Skinny” by Mary Sukala

 

I have struggled with eating disorders for almost a decade now. It started when I was twelve and, at the age of twenty, I still haven’t managed to wriggle free. The poem “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny” by Blythe Baird has touched me even though I was always thin. It is a collection of punch-packing snapshots of what an eating disorder is. I admire her gift with language, but even more than that, I admire her strength and unflinching honesty. The slam poem inspired me to write my own poem as a response. I am still in recovery but I am striving to be recovered. I highly suggest that you listen to her piece before even starting to read mine. It is phenomenal.

“When the Skinny Girl Stays Skinny”

It was the year of High School Musical and Camp Rock,

we ushered food around trays at lunch like bumper cars,

giggling nervously like the dainty waifs in diet tea ads.

Lamenting expanding tushes and sucking in stomachs,

cursing baby fat in the confessional of locker rooms

comparing numbers after the yearly height-and-weight check,

and I soaked in every digit.

It started with a “religious fast,”

attaining nirvana despite my Catholic roots.

I was never fed but always full.

And when the other girls stopped,

I opted to go on.

Reels of memories are marked by

what I did and did not consume,

the excuses jammed between empty plates.

“I had lunch earlier”

“I had a big breakfast”

“I don’t normally eat a lot of food at once—I just graze.”

Saying “eat” has felt more scandalous than saying “fuck” in front of a priest,

A clean plate has the same sheen as a fun house mirror.

For eight years, the compulsion to resist has left me

approaching the refrigerator only to shut it and

occupy my time with superior endeavors,

such as rewriting a tally of calories for the day more neatly

or checking my BMI for the third time in two hours.

I have learned that weighing oneself naked is not the norm,

and that 700 calories is not considered overmuch.

When the fat girl gets skinny,

her chops for dying are celebrated.

When the skinny girl stays skinny,

she is dubbed “naturally thin.”

Both dodge the radar in their own way.

I can remember my highest and lowest weights to the decimal.

My periods give rain in the Sahara a run for its money.

Hunger pangs feel more nostalgic than my grandmother’s potato salad.

It was said that if you aren’t recovering, you are dying,

I wish I could say picking one or the other

was an obvious choice.

“blue winter wood” by Mary Sukala

I am convinced that my love was a tree in his past life. The woods are where he feels most at home; his dream abode is a giant treehouse; if he somehow inherited unlimited dough, buying a massive chunk of land and populating acre upon acre with forestage would make his woodman’s heart content–and he’s massively tall, not unlike a towering redwood (a.k.a. the tallest tree in existence). So I pieced together a poem that spoke of our relationship in an extended metaphor that is very “us.” It flows through the stages of our relationship, from the beginning to where we are now, giving all the credit to God and ever thanking Him that He planted us in each other’s path. It chronicles our journey of figuratively building up a love so strong and comfortable that I don’t believe we’ll ever leave it.

blue winter wood

we built Us with a capital U

a treehouse in a blue winter wood

 

(the one we stumbled upon together

in the dead center of our clasped hands)

 

you pounded every nail into every board

i tarped a makeshift roof over the frame

 

and even when it was nowhere near finished i pulled you inside

and with an eyebrow cocked and a goofy grin, you called it a good place

 

then you put the hammer to bed for just an hour

and we watched the willows make shadow puppets on the walls

 

in the light of a sugar-spun moon

when christmas still kicked dust bunnies around each nook

 

and when i said i love you too and meant it

i swear the words became shards of snow

 

fell over my entire being and softened to tears

as they reached my sternum

 

and you helped haul the beams for

this woodland abode well into the evening

 

i let the warmth in your voice thaw the marrow of my bones

and when it was done curled up next to you on the sawdust carpeting

 

and after we drilled our names into every single plank

you said, more sure: such a good place

 

and i pulled you into my arms

and with a kiss said: we did something right

 

and you said: no

God did

“We Were Once Glass” by Mary Sukala

Almost a year ago to the day, I jotted this poem down in a cheap composition book with a dried up pen in a drab hospital group room. I was locked up in the funny farm and had met a mysterious, magnetic young man a week earlier. The moment I laid eyes on his tall, lanky figure I knew that he was special. I almost didn’t talk to him during my stay due to my extreme introversion and a certainty that he was far out of my league. He is also cripplingly introverted and was under the impression that I would never give him the time of day, either.

But one day I took a leap of faith and asked him to tag along on a walk around the hospital courtyard. Pretty soon, said mysterious young man and I were spending as much time as possible in each other’s company, tracing endless loops in the hospital courtyard during supervised “Physical Wellness” groups and chilling in the common room as heavy metal played in the background.

Reading over this poem, it seems to come off pretty strong for knowing the second party of the piece only a matter of days. But when you know you’ve found “the one,” you just know. One year later, my feelings only swell to take up more space in my chest with every passing day. We’ve been through hell and back between long distance and taking a share in hauling one another’s cross through life. I saw forever, even then, and I still see forever now. It’s funny how those kinds of things work out. It’s beautiful.

We Were Once Glass

One day we will be dust—

ash, ember, our fire spent.

The ocean’s hymn will hush.

All but heaven will fall silent.

And they’ll etch scenes into our sand

and forget we were once glass.

And they’ll never understand

why the sea smooths our surface.

Perhaps I will die to myself

with you, too, no longer alive.

Perhaps we’ll know we’ve evaded hell

when we’re blazing inside.

Blown glass, burn at the touch,

you and I.

“Lock/Key” by Mary Sukala

“Lock/Key” was inspired by my long distance relationship. LDRs are double-edged swords. On one hand, the one I love brings me a wealth of pure joy, knowing that there is someone out there who finds me so valuable that he is willing to spend months away from me for the sake of a beautiful shared future. On the other it is an endless source of pain because every moment of every day I am missing him, and he, in turn, is missing me. We complement each other as lock and key, and we break each other’s heart every single day. Yet somehow, even through that, we carry on and continue to love in the fiercest way we know how.

And so, here’s my poem, “Lock/Key.” I hope you enjoy it. If you can relate, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Lock/Key

And I can’t help but wonder,

missing you,

if the lock misses the key,

lives for a side smirk, coy

giggles, a shared glance,

feeds on tokens of sweet nothing.

If it crushes him to know he’s

complete only when broken.

If he asks his shadow if he was

ever complete at all.

If his tears salt his whiskey

on the rocks.

If he curses the Divine, that

only his femme fatale can

dam his void,

prays they wake up with the

same spark, different shells.

And if after his bronze

black widow cracks his ribs,

shatters his heart for the

third time since sunrise,

does he no longer flinch?

 

And the key—does she lose

her breath

every time she robs him of

his own?

Does she unforgive herself

the moment her forgetting slips,

that even ironclad will can’t

derail this fate?

And if she longs to be

forever lost behind

the ancient futon they

haven’t touched in decades,

 

Whose heartbreak is she begging

to soften?

“Confessionalist” by Mary Sukala

As a first post, I felt it only fitting to put up a poem that is closely tied to the name of this chunk of cyberspace. I wrote this a while back, when I first stumbled upon my all time favorite poet, Sylvia Plath. There was something addictive about her cool-as-all-get-out tone. I clamored to find more poets like her and discovered the tribe of poets known as the “Confessionalists,” and fell head over heels with every piece from that era. I quite liked the term and subsequently applied it to my own honest, raw, slightly dark pennings. Despite the way my voice and subject matter in my work has evolved, the name has stuck.

So without further ado, here’s “Confessionalist.”

Confessionalist

1. Outside

My people are unsmiling, as if

our mouths will not tug themselves

into grins, low slung valleys. Our sin

is not knowing the word “nonverbal.”

Words are our love.

 

2. Inside

My people are gas ovens. Carbon

monoxide darts. My people are heart attacks.

My people attack their own hearts. The lashing

wit of our words has barged in and

immortalized itself.

 

2. Inside

My people are cogs and gears filed smooth,

Exhausted in ecstasy like Poetry is a marathon

The dreamer’s muse, at last, has won. But it always

ends with the creative gene. No one knew

 

A mutation so sweet could kill.

 

1. Outside

My people are a thrashing torrent,

reeling each other in like fishers of men

who want to fillet and debone the emotions

of others in search of their own.

 

1. Outside

My people are insane.

2. Inside

My people are brilliant.

2. Inside

Our unraveling brains

1. Outside

Our luminescence.

My people.

My

Poets.

Stitches in time in need of wounds.

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