Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beauty I Would Suffer for

by Marge Piercy

Last week a doctor told me
anemic after an operation
to eat: ordered to indulgence
given a papal dispensation to run
amok in Zabar's.
Yet I know that in
two weeks, a month I
will have in my nostrils
not the savor of rendering goosefat,
not the burnt sugar of caramel topping
the Saint-Honore cake, not the pumpernickel
bearing up the sweet butter, the sturgeon
but again the scorched wire,
burnt rubber smell
of willpower, living
with the brakes on.

I want to pass into the boudoirs
of Rubens' women. I want to dance
graceful in my tonnage like Poussin nymphs.
Those melon bellies, those vast ripening thighs,
those featherbeds of forearms, those buttocks
placid and gross as hippopotami:
how I would bend myself
to that standard of beauty, how faithfully
would consume waffles and sausage for breakfast
with croissants on the side, how dutifully
I would eat for supper the blackbean soup
with madeira, followed by the fish course
the meat course, and the Bavarian cream.
Even at intervals during the day I would
suffer an occasional eclair
for the sake of appearance.

For me, one of the most powerful lines ever penned by a poet..."the scorched wire, burnt rubber smell of willpower, living with the brakes on." It seems as though ever since Eve took that first bite of the apple, this is the curse with which we've been afflicted.

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