Beauty I Would Suffer for

Beauty I Would Suffer for

Last week a doctor told me
anemic after an operation
to eat: ordered to indulgence
given a papal dispensation to run
amok in Zabar's.
Yet I know that in
two weeks, a month I
will have in my nostrils
not the savor of rendering goosefat,
not the burnt sugar of caramel topping
the Saint-Honore cake, not the pumpernickel
bearing up the sweet butter, the sturgeon
but again the scorched wire,
burnt rubber smell
of willpower, living
with the brakes on.

I want to pass into the boudoirs
of Rubens' women.* I want to dance
graceful in my tonnage like Poussin nymphs.
Those melon bellies, those vast ripening thighs,
those featherbeds of forearms, those buttocks
placid and gross as hippopotami:
how I would bend myself
to that standard of beauty, how faithfully
would consume waffles and sausage for breakfast
with croissants on the side, how dutifully
I would eat for supper the blackbean soup
with madeira, followed by the fish course
the meat course, and the Bavarian cream.
Even at intervals during the day I would
suffer an occasional eclair
for the sake of appearance.

Marge Piercy


*Click to see two of Rubens' women.

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