I used to



I used to be a size six

all elbows and stringy hair and angles.

How those angles hurt

lurking at every bend.


My mother said – some doctor told her – her feet were so big they were

just another bend in her leg.

I remember that time in Brigham’s in Porter Square

(do they still have Brigham’s in Porter Square?)

warmer weather, must have been summer,

I was visiting from boarding school;

we met in neutral territory,

all shiny formica and florescent lights humming and the smell of milky dishrags,

left in a vanishing trail on the counter.

Her leg,


thrust out in front of her, her foot, sprouting festering blisters

How far had she walked in those sandals that cut into her feet?

a martyr

like Jesus


“Nice shoes,” I said

“You want them?” she said, “I can get more.”


I used to be a size six.

Florence said, “I carry a lifetime of grief in my belly.”

That always stayed with me: a place

for my grief,

a vessel for it,

a council.

When did it become toxic?

a target for media venom

an emblem of self hatred?

I carry a lifetime of grief in my belly,

round and soft

mapped by the births of my children,

able to expand and contract and embrace several lives.

Brim with abundant life

expand to refill, contract to rebirth

counsel in every breath,

I used to be a size six.

I carry a lifetime of grief in my belly.