Anorexic by Eavan Boland

Been feeling hungry today. Having an argument with myself about weight, which turned into a full-blown discussion about what is beauty, what is important, and my capability to still feel and think about these things, which surprised me. For some reason I remembered this.

Anorexic
Eavan Boland

Flesh is heretic.
My body is a witch.
I am burning it.

Yes I am torching
her curves and paps and wiles.
They scorch in my self denials.

How she meshed my head
in the half-truths
of her fevers

till I renounced
milk and honey
and the taste of lunch.

I vomited
her hungers.
Now the bitch is burning.

I am starved and curveless.
I am skin and bone.
She has learned her lesson.

Thin as a rib
I turn in sleep.
My dreams probe

a claustrophobia
a sensuous enclosure.
How warm it was and wide

once by a warm drum,
once by the song of his breath
and in his sleeping side.

Only a little more,
only a few more days
sinless, foodless,

I will slip
back into him again
as if I had never been away.

Caged so
I will grow
angular and holy

past pain,
keeping his heart
such company

as will make me forget
in a small space
the fall

into forked dark,
into python needs
heaving to hips and breasts
and lips and heat
and sweat and fat and greed.

3 Comments

  1. I don’t think you can definitively say that this poem is not about weight loss. It addresses the issue of sexuality as defined by the Genesis story of The Fall of Man and goes as far as to imbue female sexuality with serpent characteristics, suggesting that The Fall was not simply the woman’s fault because she listened to the serpent and ate the apple but her fault for ever leaving Man’s body in the first place (if you remember, God created Eve from a rib pulled from Adam’s side). It suggests that her body is the serpent, the tempter. Her fault was in becoming female in the first place.
    Someone in one of my grad school classes recently mentioned that eating disorders are often closely related to a desire to make oneself pure and sinless through disposing of all the characteristics that make one’s body an object of sexuality. Boland uses the framework of The Fall to address the issues of negative body image and eating disorders as well as the modern and contemporary problem of women who celebrate their sexuality being considered “whores” or “Jezebels.” I believe this poem is primarily about popularly negative connotations of female sexuality and the deeply personal shame and violence that it inflicts on many women.

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