i have never understood how women
outlive their good skin.
how when crows plant taloned feet
at the edges of tired eyes,
an aging girl resists the urge
to fight time like a fever.
my grandmother told me i should get
a full-length mirror in my closet.
so that every morning i can adjust my
clothes until my body becomes an object.
(i’d prefer a mirror in which
i can only see my back
but i know that’s not possible.)
i want to live on the east coast
when i grow up because i like
the way that every three months
the seasons fight each other
for control of the land.
sameness is scary except when
i see a new crease emerge on my stomach.
i wish i could shrink to the size of a nickel.
i’m too young for this.
in my dream, a magic show.
i am stoic as a beaming fifty-five year old
sister loses weight with the flick of a wand,
sides pressing inwards,
rib cage battling skin.
the audience gawks at
a twisted illusion.
she has shrunk so much
the stage looks like it’s growing.
the second day of freshman english class
a scrawny boy with glasses asked me
to shake my hips for him.
i was ashamed that i was big
enough for his eyes to eat.
as i sat there like a ghost an aunt went under
the surgeon’s knife and molded
her face into plastic youth.
my mother says that appearances
don’t matter but even she thinks
the lines that cup her mouth look like jowls.
to give life is to let your body grow
and i don’t know how any mother
sees the stretch scars on her torso
and lets them stay.
how she can face her child fully
knowing they will look like her
when they are older.
i don’t know why i do not praise my own mother
for seeing the good in my face and
my shape and my skin.
i exist within the twisted fantasy of girlhood
thin and smooth all over like the lid of a tin box
in an attic i cannot reach.
i am terrified of any age past sixteen.
each birthday cake counting down the years
until my heart forgets how to exist
dear god i wish i was afraid of dying.
instead i stand stiff against the drywall, panicked
about how my body will look
when some man
drops it inside the grave.
Zara Seldon is a Pakistani-American poet from Los Angeles, California. She is the founder of her school’s feminist writing club, and a participant in the Get Lit SLAM poetry universe. In her free time, she is either singing in her local choir, or spamming her friends in all caps until they respond. Her work has been featured in the Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging anthology and the Kenyon Review Young Writers Anthology.