March 29, 2004


I was looking for a poem for an upcoming occasion and happened across this interesting one:
What are big girls made of?
  --Marge Piercy (1936-)

           Look at pictures in French fashion
           magazines of the 18th century:
           century of the ultimate lady
           fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
           Paniers bring her hips out three feet
           each way, while the waist is pinched
           and the belly flattened under wood.
           The breasts are stuffed up and out
           offered like apples in a bowl.
           The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
           never meant for walking.
           On top is a grandiose headache:
           hair like a museum piece, daily
           ornamented with ribbons, vases,
           grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
           sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
           of a hairdresser turned loose.
           The hats were rococo wedding cakes
           that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
           Here is a woman forced into shape
           rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
           a woman made of pain.

            How superior we are now: see the modern woman
            thin as a blade of scissors.
            She runs on a treadmill every morning,
            fits herself into machines of weights
            and pulleys to heave and grunt,
            an image in her mind she can never
            approximate, a body of rosy
            glass that never wrinkles,
            never grows, never fades. She
            sits at the table closing her eyes to food
            hungry, always hungry:
            a woman made of pain.
            If only we could like each other raw.
            If only we could love ourselves
            like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
            If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
            to need what is sold us.
            Why should we want to live inside ads?
            Why should we want to scourge our softness
            to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
            Why should we punish each other with scorn
            as if to have a large ass
            were worse than being greedy or mean?

            When will women not be compelled
            to view their bodies as science projects,
            gardens to be weeded,
            dogs to be trained?
            When will a woman cease
            to be made of pain?

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