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October 8, 2010 / missmarymax

Skin Deep

More on the content of this piece at a later date. (Presumably when my coffee to sleeplessness ratio is a bit more favorable.) For now — here. Have my first spoken-word poem in over two years.  (Transcript below the cut.)

Skin Deep

You slinked up to me
sick with insecurity
your body berated past capacity
you sought comfort; I delivered
something else entirely

I told you to be, fearlessly
something other than pretty
to stand for something
other than beauty
to reach down low
to where your still-whole
personality runs deep
I urged you to keep
track of every trait
no one will value, the intellect
never expected, the creativity
routinely misdirected
the thirst for justice, underestimated
always, renamed nice

I begged you
not to lose sleep
over the way your stomach
stretches down to meet your hips,
or those constantly chapped lips
you claim no one will ever kiss,
Told you not to waste time,
trimming eyebrows; they’re not topiary.
No more nervously ripping hairs
from your prominent forehead
I said, this skin’s bled for beauty
its last time.

Strapped to self-love, I said you’d rise above
the superficial supermarket magazines
the tabloids that measure worth
in pounds lost or gained since last week
that deem men bloated with hormones “handsome”
girls thinner than sticks of spaghetti “curvy”
I told you not to worry about being worthy
of love. Anyone worthwhile will see
past the surface to your Inner Beauty,
I told you to hurry up and start loving yourself.

I handed you feminism, dressed as Jesus
Honey, this is the Bible that redeems us

But down, down deep
where my secrets still
seep like wounds
I can’t distinguish my voice
from Pat Sajak’s as he
presents the consolation prize.
I know it’s no good even as I
stretch a smile straight across my teeth,
shrug wordlessly, and pray this toaster keep
your disappointment at bay.

Told beauty doesn’t matter
you stay silent
Never dare to say again
How while we’re waiting for that enlightenment
You still can’t stop the yearning,
churning through your body
burning a path
from your stomach to your eyes,
tearing up as it tears up your insides.
How, happy as you are to be
the powerfully smart artist
captain of the brave regime
Just once
you want to walk a city street
and turn heads.

Wrapped in good intentions
I brandished the same bandage
handed me, meant all the best and yet
failed you, equally
I advocated ugliness, remarketed
as inner beauty,
the stepsister far inferior
to that handsome prince or princess
society told us to be, who
in spite of my best efforts
I still measure myself against

Trying to be blockbuster, Disney
and showing up pixellated,
home-movie cell-phone camera,
trying to be homecoming queen
in a pageant I’m too evolved
(supposedly) to attend
See, I’ve tried to be ahead of my time
in a society that isn’t mine
I’ve rejected all of this, impeccably
and still this body
breaks my heart

So I’m pushing back,
past the party line
I recited like a parrot,
handed you like a bloodied
badge of merit

Trying to be honest
for the first time, I replace
the line I’ve sold with what remains
my truth:
the simple proof
we have to keep fighting
instead of revising what matters
after we internalize we don’t

Sometimes, I still lust after your gaze
Sometimes the thrust of my reflection
knocks me to my knees

This revolution demands we shout
those wrongs that still run deep.

And I believe it’s not just our superficial focus
that fails us. Increasingly, I question
the very ideology that saved me,
I demand more than the half-assed liberty
of that old mind-body split.
My inner beauty is intense
but it’s

The body,
being what’s at stake,
remains what must be saved,
Now stick that in your toasters
and be brave

Our fiercest intellects
layer over cells
Our bodies remain
intrinsically ourselves

We have a responsibility
to integrate the mental
with the physical,
the brilliant
with the beautiful,
This revolution
could not exist
without this


Leave a Comment
  1. Meeresbande / Oct 18 2010 8:55 pm

    This is intense, it touches me deeply. Thank you!

  2. Rose / Oct 24 2010 1:15 am

    oh my goodness.
    this poem is incredible. it’s pivotal. so moving. i agree so fundamentally and completely with this. it explains part of my existence.
    i’m serious here.
    you. are. incredible.


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