He said you never laugh anymore since you had the baby.
I said I’m tired, I smell like soured milk, I’m lonely, I miss my friends.
He said if you don’t like your life, then change it.
I said, how, standing there with his second baby in my arms.
He said it’s been six months and you’re still fat.
Lose the baby weight or I’ll leave you.
I said I’ll lose the weight, don’t go.
The doctor said a woman of a certain
age loses the structural foundation of her *******.
Breastfeeding does that, too.
I was thirty-five.
I had fed three babies and was proud.
He watched and was disappointed.
I worked hard and was strong.
I sneered at women with fat ankles and scaly feet,
bad skin and protruding bellies.
I said, they should work harder to keep themselves up.
It’s their fault. They are lazy. They eat too much.
He said, I’m tired of living with sick and crazy people
and ran away from home.
I was tired, too, but my sons were crazy and sick,
and I couldn’t run away.
He sold my home
took my work, and my garden, and
left me responsible for the ones he ran away from.
He took the future I thought I was building--
grandmother and granddaddy,
I am become the women I sneered at,
round, lazy, and disrespected.
I say I know now that they were young once,
that their skin was clear, and their bellies flat.
I say, don’t think that how I look is who I am.
I am smart. I am kind.
I understand. I lead.
I listen. I laugh.
I write. I read. I explain.
I learn. I teach.
Who I am is not how I look.
A first draft.