after Randall Jarrell
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I choose the brand
With less packaging, ingredients less likely to harm.
I add grain-free crackers, local greens, organic chicken,
Organic eggs, amaranth.
“Begin to be now,” said William James,
“What you will be hereafter.” I must begin
To be flatter of belly
And narrower of thigh, a fraction indivisible
By the lowest common denominator. In the name of health,
Kale smoothies, cayenne cleanses, grass-fed jerky.
When I was young and miserable and thin
I thought I was destined
To wear size six forever. How often did I undress
With someone then, how often lie alone imagining
I was being undressed?
I longed and longed till I was made of longing.
This new diet targets my demographic.
Oh, how I despise
Counting and measuring out discouraging portions
All the no-ing and the careful, careful shopping.
I crave compromise,
A plan that lets me sneak almond croissants.
At my slimmest I ate the most perfect pastries
From a tiny shop
Near Central Park. After therapy I’d get
My croissant and a large Sumatra with cream and sugar,
Careful not to drop
The phone no one called, walked to my favorite bench.
Dieting is common, but those croissants
The filling not a paste but an almost-custard
Redolent of almonds. The shop is closed now—
Rising rent scary,
The tired owner sold her recipes to a neighbor.
Other middle-aged people annoy me,
Their huffings and umbrages,
Sun hats and hair dye and showy, pricey spectacles.
I am no exception, spending as much as anyone
To mask the damages.
It costs more and more each day just to go on.
I think of the two friends my age lost
Last year to cancer, one
Of the brain and one of the womanly organs,
One a three-month decline, the other a decade’s battle,
Their daughter and sons
Bewildered, husbands devoted and diminished.
Yesterday, after fasting, I went to the doctor
Who put me to sleep
So he could peek inside and check for tumors.
He didn’t find anything out of the ordinary,
Just told me to keep
Away from chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes, wine—
The few things that give pleasure to my days and nights.
I am not exceptional,
Staring at the mirror like a fogged effigy,
Unclear how one so young can look like that,
How one life can, after all,
Be so confused, so commonplace, so solitary.