I Know Girls (Bodylove)

A poem for anyone who has ever felt their body is incorrect


i know girls who are trying to fit into the social norm
like squeezing into last year’s prom dress
i know girls who are low rise, mac eyeshadow,
and binge drinking
i know girls who wonder if they’re disaster
and sexy enough to fit in
i know girls who are playing russian roulette
with death it’s never easy to accept
that our bodies are fallible and flawed
but when do we draw the line? when the knife hits the skin?
because we’re so obsessed with death—
some women just have more guts than others
the funny thing is women like us will never shoot.
we swallow pills,
still wanting to be beautiful at the morgue.
still proceeding to put on makeup
still hoping the mortician finds us fuckable
we might as well be buried with our shoes. and scarves.
and handbags.


we flirt with death every time we etch
a new tally-mark into our skin
i know how to split my wrists to reveal battlefields too,
but the time has come for us to reclaim our bodies.
Our bodies deserve more than to be
war-torn and collateral, offering this
fuckdom as a pathetic means to say:
i only know how to exist when i’m wanted
girls like us are hardly ever wanted, you know
we’re used up. and sad. and drunk.
and perpetually waiting by the phone for someone to pick up
and say “you did good.”
well, you did good.


try this:
take your hands over your bumpy lovebody naked
and remember the first time you touched someone
with the sole purpose of learning all of them,
touched them because the light was pretty on them
and the dust in the sunlight danced the way your heart did.
touch yourself with a purpose,
your body is the most beautiful royal
fathers and uncles are not claiming your knife anymore,
are not your razor, no—
you put the sharpness back.
lay your hands flat and feel the surface of scarred skin.
i once touched a tree with charred limbs
the stump was still breathing
but the tops were just ashy remains
i wonder what it’s like to come back from that.
sometimes i feel forest fires
erupting from my wrists and the smoke signals sent out
are the most beautiful things i’ve ever seen



love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet
and brother, arm wrapping shoulders, remember,
this is important:
you are worth more than who you fuck,
you are worth more than a waistline,
you are worth more than beer bottles
displayed like drunken artifacts,
you are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 4,
you are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C
you are worth more than any naked body
could proclaim in the shadows,
you are worth more than your father’s 


mistake or a man’s whim, your sexiness is defined by
concentric circles within your wood—wisdom & truth
you are a goddamn tree stump
with leaves sprouting out:


This is an excerpt from Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across: Poems by Mary Lambert (published by Feiwel and Friends) Copyright © 2018 by Mary Lambert.