It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

I didn’t think I had to post this,
Until yesterday afternoon.
I walked in to the women’s restroom and I saw a woman pulling the same tricks I used to. I waited for her outside and politely, subtly, reached out to her.

This was my big guilty issue for years and I am proud that it isn’t one any longer. I saw on PostSecret that this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so I have decided to re-post a poem I wrote in October about my struggle. For her.

I am often told that my poetry is shocking in its honesty,  many people told me they admire my ability to go on stage and reveal these things. It was never difficult for me, until I wrote this piece. There is so much shame that goes along with bulimia, the entire illness is about it. With the help of my sister and my mother I no longer struggle with it, but the thought of reading this poem in front of my father terrified me. He’s old school Italian-American and these issues are often tricky to convey across gender lines.
Over Christmas I recited it for him.
It felt good.

So, before the poetry, here are a few links:

PostSecret has some great cards up this week
http://postsecret.com/
Frank Warren offered this link on his social media:
https://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/locator/nedsp/
Here are a few links I recommend:
For more information and how to get help:
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
A questionnaire from Overeaters Anonymous(who offers online meetings and resources)
http://www.oa.org/newcomers/is-oa-for-you/

Now, My story.

The Diet Plan of J. Alfred Prufrock

Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons
I have measured out my own in grams,
Ounces, pounds
Percentages.
All these countless measurements
In the relentless pursuit of precision,
Perfection.
Let me tell you the ingredients that
Make up a  pastry chef
Sugar, spice,
And blind determination.

For I have worked them all already,
worked them all:

Have worked the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life in tablespoons,
I know the soufflés falling with a dying fall
Within the oven in the other room
So what shall I consume?

And yet,
The rest of my life has been
An endless cycle of
Restrict
Binge
Purge

Sugar has always been my
Drug of choice
Hell, I made I career out of it.
Just another desperate attempt to
Control the thing that
Controls everything.

All these numbers crush in on me
Memories of the day
I weighed 107 pounds
And Kyle told me I looked
fucking amazing

The best part of my mother’s death
Was that it was the only time in my life
That I ever stopped
Eating.
I guess,
I lost the greatest part of me.
In the end she weighed about 17 pounds.

Sometimes I wonder, what it was
That brought me to that place
Where I just,
I couldn’t
Eat.
Now I look back at photos of her funeral
And think
God, I was so skinny.

Last year I gave up my body
For a job.
I quit sleeping,
Destroyed my metabolism
Ate my feelings.

Last year he broke my heart
It bled into the rest of my body.
Expanded.
Until there were all these
Extra bits of me
To criticize.

I have spent the last 6 months
In the body of another woman
Looking at her through my own eyes
I look back at my journals
Realize that I wasn’t much happier then, at
114
111
107

In the end  my life
Has not been ruled by numbers,
But by shame
(They will say: “How her arms are growing thin!”)
Guilt
Binge
Purge
Restrict
Just another woman’s circus bit
Pay your dime, buy your ticket!
Watch me perform my greatest trick.
My World-Famous Disappearing Act!!

And maybe if I just give this up,
God will give her back.
Or maybe if I just
Sacrifice this meal
Everything will be alright.
Or maybe if I just
Reach this number
Then then the anxiety will get better
(“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker”)

I’m unsure if any of these realizations
Have left me anywhere better because
All the self-loathing
All the extra bits of me
Are still here.

I guess I am just terrified to fall in love again.
To let anyone see this,
Unwrapped,
As what it is.
This, Meaning me.
Me, Meaning my body.

 Love complicates everything.
Love has left me, at least this evening
Staring at my empty stomach
Thinking- What if he should see this?
Should I go back to my old habits?
Is it worth it?

It isn’t.

There are moments
When I despise myself enough
That I would invite all of that pain back
If only just
To watch myself
Disintegrate.
Because I keep on thinking.

Won’t losing weight fix everything?

How to make a baker smile.

The other day someone asked me,

“If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then what is the way to a baker’s?”

“Never claim you don’t have a sweet tooth. I guess?”

I saw him in the hallway earlier, we both smiled too wide for a Monday.
He noticed that I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I worked a long day, it ended after the hour it began. Which is fine, just a cost of loving what you do. Except, at the end of the night, after mopping, I slipped and fell in a way that will surely hurt tomorrow.

My mind focused on the impending bruises of Tuesday, I was ready to go home.  I was locking the kitchen door for the night, on my way to take out the trash. My last chore. The last thing between me and my bed. He snuck up behind me and quietly took the trash bag.

So, to answer the question: That is how.

For Chris

I still see you sometimes.
Well, I imagine I do.
New York does this
Gives.
Takes.
Makes promises it can’t keep.

It was warm today.
The air perfumed with that glorious in-between
Scent of snow
Footprints
Cement.
The trees hummed false promises of spring.
It’s blood orange season.

I didn’t see you, but you were on my mind.
Been about ten months.
I still don’t know how you died.
No one would say.
I found out on the day after your funeral.
On Facebook.

Your roommate said,
The family wishes to keep the circumstances surrounding his death private.
You were the first friend I made in New York.
You were the first lesson I learned.

The ingredients for
Your birthday cake
Were on my kitchen table
Still in the bags, with the receipts.
I left them there for two days..
I let the butter spoil.

The last of your words I can recall,
“Alessandra, you look lovely, as always.”
I am thankful that on the three occasions I saw you
I took the opportunity twice to say,
The world needs more doctors like you.
You were applying to medical school.
I guess twice wasn’t enough.

This is what it means to grieve an almost.
To ask,
Am I allowed to miss you like I do?
I had been reminding myself
In the days leading up to your party
Not to drink too much
For fear that I would kiss you.

I went into work that day.
The chef told me,
When I was 22
I have a friend.
He killed himself with a gun.
In the head.

I cried over the dish sink.

This weekend
I finally baked the cake.
The recipe I wrote for you.
I gave it to three men.
I gave no explanation.
Save to say,
It’s blood orange season.

Oh dear.

I didn’t sleep last night.
Between the hours of two and three this afternoon I consumed enough caffeine that I skipped over the jittery panic phase and have completely lost my ability to function like a normal human being.

I have no words to properly describe how I feel right now. This is a profoundly unique experience. All I can say is, I am starting to wonder- what the fuck was in that tea?

Please, remind me of my resolution.

I saw her for the first time in a long time
Everyone seemed inclined to inform me
(warn me)
Of the precise location she was standing
From the moment I walked in.

She
Was drinking red wine,
The pattern on her tie
Almost-matched-but-didn’t-quite
The one on her pants, though
She
Said she had tried,
But I’d venture a guess
She
Preferred it like this,
Just a bit off.
She
Had too many things in her pockets and
They stuck out from her body like
Drawers left open on a nightstand
While searching for something lost.
She
Had cut her hair in a rather nice way and
When she said,

“Hello.”

It sounded like an exhale.
She
Has that way about her.

Don’t know what I’m hoping for
Though, I wouldn’t mind a sign
Keep pocketing the postcards
People hand me on the train.
I keep waiting
Wasting time
I should spend writing poems,
Just writing about him.

Sirens, continued.

He says,
Meet me at these coördinates
We’ll get drunk, make love
Then write about the moonlight
I’m not much of a sailor
But I’ve been tying knots
In his limbs for weeks.
Would kiss his wounds
With salted lips
Could make love from this mistake
Abandon my map.
Should probably turn back.

He pulls words from my skin
Knocks over my ink well
Holds me under till I drop my pen.
He asks me when I finally will.
Give in.

Boston.

I am young enough that he
Holds my age against me.
Though not so young
That he feels guilty.
Holding my hands behind my back,
Holding me against his moans.

Just enough for him to look at me in
Red-lit
Red-wine soaked
Red post-coital glow
And say,
I didn’t think at my age, I’d be dating a 24 year-old.

He didn’t ask me to stay,
He just said that I could
I am old enough to know the difference.

All these men,
They ask where I grew up.
I say,
Boston.

I don’t tell them-
In October.
On the steps of the church down the street
Where I would wander.
Met others, made friends
With the characters on break from an AA meeting
Smoked too many cigarettes.
Rebelled, broke hearts.
Left love notes taped to the door.
Left my first lover.
It was a church that I never entered.

I grew up in October
When she told me it was cancer.
When I
Collapsed
On the steps.
Made a heaving, stuttered attempt at prayer
Banged on the door.

Asked Him why he’d let me save her
So many times before.
I’ve lived more than 24.  

But when he asks me,
Where?

I just say,
Boston.

I don’t tell him,
At 8 Holly Gate Circle
At 8 years old.

On our kitchen floor.
My mother lay there.
This was the first time
T
hat he let me keep her.
She slipped away
In line with her
Plummeting blood-sugar.
I sobbed to the beat
Of her beeping glucometer.
S
he danced towards white light
Diabetic coma.

I was 8 years old
Digging through her purse
The way I used to dig through dirt

In search of an
 emergency injection
Tapped air from the syringe
Stuck the needle in between
The freckles of her skin.
Clutched the telephone
Untangling the cord enough
That I could touch her
Called for
an ambulance-

But,
When he asked for my address
I just said,
Boston. 

I didn’t tell him,

At 11, maybe 12
In the arts and crafts cabin
Coughing on salt that he forced down my throat.
 Left scratch-kneed girl
Over-seasoned with guilt.

The aftermath when he told,
The bitter taste that it left-

Was worse.

Sitting on a picnic table
When my counselor whispered,
Whore
For years this was the story I never wrote
,
But by 17 I had healed
I told my mother
Who, in turn, revealed,
What
happened to him.
You see,
I grew up in a small town
45 minutes away from the city.
With the largest case of sexual abuse in the state’s history.
I grew up with boys who
Learned to love this way.

But when men ask me
Where I grew up
I just say,
Boston.

 I don’t tell them
On the steps of Sacre-Coeur
Standing out of breath and
Just out of B
reathless
Nineteen, practically penniless
W
andering alone in Paris.

I grew up laughing,
Too hard.
I grew up in his arms.
I grew up on the day she died.
Months later when I realized
The difference between dead and gone.
Standing on a bridge in Amsterdam
The first time
I realized I was in love.

In the hallway of the hospital
Waving my grandfather’s advanced directive
At the doctors.
Insisting
That despite my age
He had trusted me to speak for him
To recite the poem
Of his h
ealth-care proxy.
Not to let him live
This way
I grew up when I let him die.

  I grew up dreaming, breathing New York
Waiting for the right moment
Earning my way.
Learning from my mistakes
Sewing up wounds
I grew up writing poems about men like you.

How you’ve been marking off the days
Waiting on a calendar girl
Go ahead kid, call me February.
Call me May.
Call me the one that got away.
Call me October-
Call me twenty four.
(Call me, yours)

Go ahead kid,
Ask where I grew up.
I’ll tell you, like I did before,
Boston.

 

 

 

He believed I was a girl worth loving.

My grandfathers are gone now.
So, I have an adopted one.
New York does this.
Gives. Takes.
Makes promises it can’t keep.
Drives you mad with grief
Longing and winter.
If you can make it,
It will give a little more.

It’s funny,
He doesn’t know it.
He carries on the same sentiments.
Same complaints
Berates me for my low self esteem
Gets me to write.
Sees past all this pale of mine
Listens,
Reminds me
My heart still beats,
sometimes.

Pa was hard to talk to
Like, running up a steep hill.
Like, running out of time.
His heart so broken
He forgot that mine was built
From the same faulty parts.
He didn’t understand why I left Adam.
It became a fevered rant of
How my grandmother left him.
Then he stopped-

When I began crying.
He couldn’t fix this emotion
But he could call his clock repairman.
My hands weren’t moving in synch.
I was just
Popped springs
Rusted gears.
His broken granddaughter clock
Spent three years collecting dust
Being wound up in the wrong ways.
Three years counting the same day.

I tried to tell him he was the only guy
I had any time for,
He told me he would gladly be miserable.
If it meant love for me.

In his way, he believed in love.
The Socio-economic benefits of co-habitation.
In making a genetic contribution to the population.
He did not believe in marriage since,
Divorce is both inevitable and expensive.

He believed I was a girl worth loving.

Which is a significant something
From him.
A soldier with a ribcage that rattled.
Shrapnel bits
From lost battles
Scarred reminders of a blonde bombshell.

My adopted grandfather
Seems to have picked up where Pa left off.
He says,
So are you seeing someone?
You seem to be writing all these love poems.

I don’t know if love is the word.
Or seeing,
I have words for each of them.
He understands
There are two men.
There were three,
But I am done with him.
I don’t know what will happen.

So I left out the story of the
“Right” one
Who tells me,
Ever since we spoke last I’ve been humming this song.
Have you ever heard it?
Who stops just to say,
I saw you leaving yesterday.
In a red shirt.
I liked how it looked.
I like how you look in red.
But,
He just, isn’t.

I told him of the other
How he comes and goes and
Disappears
How I lose interest
We are just two wanderers.
Then out of nowhere he shows up.
He surprises me.
But, I just don’t know.
I have set the bar extremely low.

My new grandfather told me,
“It sounds like it isn’t going anywhere.”

So I said,
Give it time.
Then felt my hands start ticking again.

Call me Valentine.

Bring a date.
Bring the tattered remains of your broken heart.
Bring me a love letter, and call me yours for the night.

I’ve said I can’t reveal much more of myself than I do with my poetry, I was wrong.
So, come and watch me recite poetry in my lingerie

 Stuck On Cupid: St. Valentine’s Day Love Notes
An evening of music, poetry, and burlesque. Featuring: EmZ and Tierney Boisvert, bands The Bleed and Satorii, and the Titillating Tongues Collective. Hosted by comedian Ashlee Voorsanger.

The Titillating Tongues Collective is an outgrowth of the Inspired Word’s monthly erotica series by the same name. It includes poets Aimee Herman (who has hosted Titillating Tongues for over two years), Nichole Acosta, Jherelle Benn, Verandah-Maureen Shepard, and Alessandra Francesca as well as burlesque star Essence.

Did you see that bit above where they mention my name? You probably aren’t as excited about it as I am, but you should be.

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014

Tammany Hall
152 Orchard Street
Manhattan, NYC
http://tammanyhallny.com/
Time: 6:30pm
21+
General Admission: $10 at the door
or
Advance tickets can be purchased http://valentinenyc.eventbrite.com/.