There is an enemy inside who willingly starves.
For that enemy, it’s always too much.
But it’s enough to keep your teeth clamped, lips curled.
Enough to make your heart beat blood.
Enough to make your feet shuffle, mind pulse.
Not nearly enough to survive.
You are a girl.
Isn’t beauty your birthright?
Isn’t hunger your friend?
Pour red wine into measuring cups.
Calculate the price you’ll pay for one more quarter.
Barter with your conscience and promise to be less.
The wine makes your head spin like children
Who haven’t yet learned that beauty is anything more than mud,
Scraped knees or low-limbed trees.
One more quarter cup.
Head between knees. One more. One more.
You drift and jolt, spilling red on the carpet.
I’m wasting, you think, rubbing it in with your heel,
I’m wasting away.
A life of comparison.
Tear every girl apart.
Gashes, severed limbs, and surgery.
Maybe when the stitches heal there’d be one.
An acceptable collection of bones.
What other purpose do you have?
Than to draw all eyes and appease an appetite?
A lifetime of counting.
The rib bones and decimals and sidelong glances.
The times you’ve had your shoulder squeezed – looks aren’t everything.
But they are more than kind eyes, strong arms, or steady heads and hearts.
You are dwindling.
On the edge of existing.
Telling yourself, to be less is to win.
A looking glass replica telling you,
You can do this forever.
But I’m telling you now, let go.
Beauty is already yours.
It’s beneath your nails like mud.
by Emily Laubham
Editor’s Note: The rambling, conversational imagery of this poem draws the reader into the narrator’s inner landscape. The struggle against beauty norms is ongoing and difficult.