By: JC Reilly
the next time | someone | perhaps you | my friend | tells me that fat | is bad | that I could be so
pretty || if || I lost the extra pounds | because it’s better | for my health | it’s better | for my sex life
| wink wink | it’s better | for my career | fat people | you understand | are perceived as stupid | lazy
| uneducated | as if I’ve | never | heard such critiques before || not that || you || personally | hold
those negative stereotypes | you assure me | even as you parrot them || I will say | my god || I had
no idea | your thoughts | were so consumed | so devoured | so englutted | with concern | for me ||
what a weight | on your mind | must my body be | to you || how heavy your heart | to be
encumbered | with a fat friend || I promise you | it is not contagious || you cannot catch | my body
| just by knowing me || you will look offended | the shock | like a shutter | closing on your
expression || you will sputter | like Prufrock | that is not | what I meant | at all || it’s because | I
love you | and I want you to live | a happy life || yes | I can see that || I always mistake | people’s
love | with revulsion || easy to do | when fat bodies | are on display | in the museum | of collective
consciousness | beside Judas and Hitler | like a diorama | labeled Treachery || how this large
woman | must threaten | your sense of scale | that you would seek | to cut away pieces | of me |
and call that | happiness
JC Reilly writes across genres to keep things interesting. Her latest collection, What Magick May Not Alter was published by Madville Publishing. She serves as the Managing Editor of Atlanta Review. When she's not writing, she plays tennis, crochets, or practices her Italian (badly). Follow her @Aishatonu on Twitter.
"To live in a fat body is to straddle the strange position of being both constantly on display and yet utterly invisible at the same time. How quickly we are discounted—our intellect, our ideas, our feelings, our desires. We represent a lack-of-control, an unwillingness to conform or behave. We are barraged with messages that enumerate how our bodies are 'wrong.' For myself, I have sought to make myself smaller in a myriad of other ways, so that I do not offend other people (more than is necessary) by my weight. I am an excellent back-of-the-house sort, smart but not too smart, hardworking, private, and mysterious. I try not to call attention to myself as much possible. I try desperately to fade into the background. I’ve become good at it. Sometimes I don’t even think I exist.
'Burden' as a poem is a departure for me because it acknowledges those feelings about my fat body that I don’t usually allow myself to think about. And it also points out the hypocrisy of people who say they love those of us with fat bodies and yet frame their love as contingent on our losing weight. Additionally, it’s a departure for me in terms of form; to me the use of '|'as sole punctuation serves to underscore the metaphorical prison that society puts people like me in because of our size. I don’t know if it achieves that effect entirely, but I did want to explore the use of an unconventional form for this subject matter."