Tag Archives: identity

Loose skin

I am constantly amazed by the length of my neck
and the sweat on my nose
these bathroom reflections
are new

so is the perfect bowl for kisses above my collarbone
my poise, calm regard – they too are new

there’s just the one chin now
I can readily define both heads of sternocleidomastoid
and that hollow in front of my shoulder
is designed for lips

I no longer instinctively head for the ‘plus’ sizes
but I still leave ample space between my car and the next

my belly and buffalo hump are gone
so are my breasts
reciting the alphabet backwards to C
but there’s nothing retrograde when they’re touched

my hand is a venous delta
it would be so easy to put a drip in me now
I am reacquainted with my genitals
why hello there!

when I lean forward during sex
my tummy is an inverted mountain range
I ponder its cartography
lose my rhythm… but not my breath

I have wings now… flaps of skin that refuse
to be contained by lingerie

there’s a gap between my thighs
I believe this is desirable
to be measured in finger breadths
my fingers are skinny

I wonder if the carbon dioxide generated by my lost fat
has contributed to climate change

I grab handfuls of my skin
wish it could be put on the scales
catch crowded trams
booth seats offer no terror now

I swagger and I stride
look you in the eye
for though this skin doesn’t fit me
I fit in this skin


I have not written much this past two years. I have not had that much to say and have been focusing on another aspect of my recovery from the fires. Since age seven, or thereabouts, I have been overweight – from just a little plump to morbidly obese. My weight has varied like some sort of bizarre sine wave – with ever increasing amplitude. Grief triggers my comfort eating and so, almost inevitably, I gained an astounding amount of weight in the first couple of years after the fires. Managing that aspect of my life was beyond me. I was concentrating first on the essential life ‘rebuild’ – home, possessions, psychological stability – and then on belonging in this new community. Somewhere in all of that I fell in love, with all the pleasant distractions and work that entails. Then, in late May 2013, my gynaecologist made me stand on the scales and I shifted from shameful contemplation of my obesity to action. Nineteen months and 70 kilograms lighter I am at the skinny end of the healthy weight range – the thinnest I have ever been as an adult. I’m fit and muscular and crave salad not cake. I measure my food and go to the gym. I plan never to climb the upward swing of the sine wave again.

My thanks to Andy Jackson, a poet who writes so thoughtfully about the body, for reading through an earlier draft of this poem and making some very helpful suggestions. You can find Andy’s writing here: https://amongtheregulars.wordpress.com/

The price of charity

Here it is…. please read this poem in conjunction with yesterday’s post ‘Angry writing’ and the accompanying comment.


What is the price?
The price of your charity
Must I recount?
Tell for the umpteenth time
My story
Is the price of your charity
That vicarious thrill?
That frisson?
While your pupils dilate
As I relate my tale


What must I pay?
For your castaway goods
Stowaways from the depths of your drawers
Thrown into plastic bags for me to sort
Must I show you my scars?
My photos? My relics?
Let you touch my belly
With child inside
Have you tell me
How lucky I am


What is the cost?
Of gaining your sympathy
My identity lost
As I wear your clothes
My sense of self, my pride
Thrown away, with all those items I couldn’t use
Aching guilt
Trembling rage
That you exact such a price
The price of your charity

Gossamer skin

Triumphant orange glows the Sun
Rays burn straight, intense
Warming that below
In the landscape of my soul


Flurries of disconsolate blue ice
Swirl chaotically, random
Freezing dark recesses
In the landscape of my soul


Raging red fire consumes
Angry flames rape, destroy
Growing forest
In the landscape of my soul


Despondent black air suffocates
Stagnant, dank, foetid
Fills deep caves
In the landscape of my soul


Nascent green shoots
Shout encouragement
Stretch out for light
In the landscape of my soul


And what of this soul?
This churning calamity
Prey to dichotomous forces
How is it contained? Concealed?


For fury, torment, despair
Even exultant joy, evolution
Prove to threaten the equilibrium of observers
Of the landscape of my soul


Gossamer skin
Translucent membrane
Flimsy separation from an
Uncomprehending world


Would that I had
Hardened integument
Impervious exoskeleton
Protection from hurt


But if I had a toughened hide
I hope I may shed it from time to time
Allow a knowing mortal to gaze inside
At the landscape of my soul


Calmly she regards her face in the bathroom mirror
Today her large almond eyes are green
Other days her eyes are grey or hazel but she is always
When they are green
A friend has told her that her eyes are like that of a
Famous movie star
She is not so sure
But, today, at least, her eyes are pleasing


Her short brown hair, once auburn, now
Streaked with silver
Provides a frame for a round face
Cheekbones high above a
Today, her eyes are smiling too
She can overlook the flaws she too often finds
In her visage and body


Within her core she knows her worth
Her physical attributes may sing today but
The being within her is where
Her essence lies
Distilled by experience
Of pain, trauma, joy and love


And what of this essence?
What makes her so?
Stoic resilience and fragile vulnerability
Her capacity to love
Her empathy and warmth
Fierce intelligence
A sense of fun, of playfulness
Wicked black humour
And equally black moods
Uncompromising honesty
A search for perfection


Even though she can be highly strung
Pedantic and verbose
I watch this woman calmly regarding her mien
Admire her strength
Forgive her foibles
And tell her how much I love her
For she is me
And she needs to know

Three poems exploring identity

Identity I


I accidentally hit the question mark first
Perhaps the subconscious mind

Trying to have her say

For the conscious mind

Thought she had it sorted

Mother of two
Separated parent
Daughter, sister, niece
Loyal friend, dog owner
Good citizen, caring doctor
Perchance even a writer?

But these are LABELS my subconscious screams

The conscious reviles the oxymoron

But proffers
Empathic and intelligent
Anxious, sad, lonely
Funny and exuberant
Resilient and forgiving
Honest to a fault

A LIST of qualities taunts the subconscious
What is it that you WANT then?

Retorts the conscious

Your question is unanswerable
I am all of those things
And none of them


Identity II


If you had asked me before
Before that day
Of fire, destruction and
I could have told you who I was
I would have known with certainty
Could have explained my roles
Discussed my values
Celebrated my virtues and
Given an honest appraisal of my flaws
And, of course, I still can
But they seem meaningless now
For I understand now that there is
No Certainty
I must constantly reinvent myself


Identity III


Stardust of millennia
I know not who I am
But, for the moment
I breathe