She Doesn't Have A Problem With Compliments. She Has A Problem With Compliments Meant For Things.

Sometimes what you don't hear is just as hurtful as what you hear.

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To the man in the car who shouted "I like a big girl in bed baby, more room to paint on." I said nothing, I pretended you meant paint. I walked away complimented. In class, I learned about the tradition of pastoral landscape, how it tames the wild out. That nature is a frenzied horse, most useful after it is broken.

Later I remember how your thin limbs dangled out of the car. I remember your mouth, not your own. You said, "Darling, your body is like a landscape, the rolling hill of you. The orchard I would set on fire to match the color of your mouth." And for a moment, I think he meant it. Desirability is a cleaver thief, it steals you away from your body. Cast subject as object if it means I am wanted. I know bodies like mine can only be talked about in metaphor.

My stomach could be the curve of a sand dune. My calves a flexing ocean. You could hook up with a mountain of a body. You could describe it later as legs you climbed all the way up, but a fat body, a dirty sidewalk is too big to be worthy of a human form. So when I talk about myself I describe a landscape, a skyline, a galaxy of a woman. A palatable vastness.

I ask myself if I could be the sun, streaking someone else's sky awake. Desirability means my favorite compliment came when a man told me that my mouth reminded him of a jar of fireflies on a hot southern night. I grew up in Portland. I have no idea what a jar of fireflies looks like, but I bet you it's beautiful like the paintings. Something you can hang up and show off to strangers, say "This piece shows that nature is a frenzied swarm, but goddamn, how pretty the jar tames it."

There are days the body positivity movement does not prepare you for. Like the day you have to take your body back from the only way people allow themselves to find it beautiful, to say that "My mouth does not firefly. My body is not a landscape. I am not a fucking orchard or a crate of bruised fruit on the road that you stop at on the way to some beautiful hillside with curves in all the right places. My body is good, like a body. I take up this much space. I am not some sprawling thing in the distance. I am right here. I am right here!

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Slam poem by Samantha Peterson for Button Poetry.

Jul 15, 2014

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