By Jennifer Thal
We all had one, this small group of giggling
children that sprouted into moody adolescents.
The mold of it may have contoured onto our
new curves in different places, but it hollowed
our collarbones, caved in our stomachs, and glued
our mouths shut just the same.
We all had one: an admission that comes as a
fact, that who we were as girls and who we are
as women can be traced back, a lineage of skipped
breakfast and picked-at lunches and early bedtimes
to avoid staring into the abyss of a full dinner plate.
Yes, we all had one, and it existed as an unspoken
law that we would watch each other fold inward
into ourselves and cradle scales like dolls against
our chests, playing this new game of House that
we didn’t quite understand the rules to, but we
played anyway, because everyone else was and no
grown-ups told us that we didn’t have to join them.
The lies that tumbled from our lips fell just as easily
as our clumsy limbs that became tangled walking up
the stairs towards classrooms where we would write
song lyrics in our notebooks and pretend that we
were solely hungry for knowledge.
We all had one, and we never said a goddamn thing
about it because how could we, when we didn’t
even know that the creature that was gripping our
waists and sentencing us to live in famine was not
a demon, not mother or father or the bullies in
middle school, but ourselves? How could we,
freshly bloomed, declare into the bonds
that formed when we still loved snack time
that we were not satisfied with our existence,
when it was easier to diminish and reduce
Now, when we finally pried our own jaws
open and reached down into our stomachs
to haul out the words we could not say
before, we find nothing but the bones
of our digested youth.
Jennifer Thal is a 24-year-old student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her work has appeared in Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, The Esthetic Apostle, Typishly, and Haunted Waters Press. She has received an International Merit Award from Atlanta Review 2019 International Poetry Competition for her poem “Spring Rebellion.” She enjoys reading at open mic nights, advocating for body positivity, and empowering her readers through her writing.