Jo Blair Cipriano

Body Image Therapy Center: Day 1

I don’t know how it’s possible for a room to look fat     but this one does     impossibly fat
& it smells like butter     bleached tablecloth     Kool-Aid                    I can’t afford to be here
No, really     I’m going to die in debt     & this won’t fix me          On top of that     this

bitch on the couch next to me     really just said     I used to purge once a day but now it’s been
     & everyone smiled & clapped          & my eating disorder          is absolutely reveling
in this shit     “See girl they don’t get us     No one ever will     That’s why we’ve got each other”

& I have to agree I mean fuck     I’ve thrown up five times          today     swallowed gallons
of moose tracks mint chip     oreo     gagged until I pissed the floor     iced my eyes     ran a mile
faster ran it     again      all before coming here          tongue slimy gums raw          to listen

to this girl tell us     she’s fine________This shit isn’t gonna work     “I don’t think I belong here”
I tell them     They say everyone says that I say “maybe everyone’s right”          Either You Run
The Day Or The Day Runs You!
says the whiteboard     On the way out no one walks next to me

We meet again a week later     all of us in the same seats in the same room     except that bitch
from the couch who I guess is fine now          “So you let her go home”          No, Joey,
Everyone, I have some news               Sarah died     last night

left a note          exhausted                    fourth time in the program          so
tired                    maybe     in some future          calm
               I don’t cry
but the others knew her               “Be gentle with yourselves today”     says the social worker

Be Yourself! Everyone Else Is Already Taken!     says the whiteboard               Right now
there are four boxes of cheesecake     in the freezer     24 steps     to the bathroom     5 cameras on
the ceiling     2 alarms     The sun     lights up brown crumbs on the couch     Sarah

everyone’s crying     I don’t know what to do     I’m not like them     I’m not like them



Body Image Therapy Center: Day 31

the therapist’s couch is big enough
for two people plus room for pillows between, but my father

and i—in an attempt to demonstrate closeness—each pick one

to hold on our laps, while another woman behind wire
-framed glasses asks me to speak from my perspective

about what’s happened to us. i don’t want to be here,

but the Center thinks a conversation with my father
might magically end years of bulimia. so here i am, listening to myself

tell him (again) he wasn’t there for me when i was raped.

but this time, a surprise: “I didn’t know you were raped.”
how is that possible? “You always said ‘assaulted.’”

what do you think that means? “I don’t know—groped

or something. Touched. Not raped.” he thumbs at loose paint
on the walls, loose seams in the couch. i become a mother suddenly needing

to protect this child from my violence. for a moment i, yes

even i, am fooled. it is only us in this room, now, has only been us
in the room, always
. if i think it enough it will light me on fire.

so i pretend, but the reality is i will leave and go eat dinner
with the others, our eyes sunken in while assholes

force-feed us butter and talk about tv shows like we’re capable

of watching them without obsessing
over the actors’ flat stomachs. and papa, he’ll go back to that woman

who thinks i’m “a mess” and that i’d be less of one

if she’d raised me herself. because, “as we all know” my mother
is “very depressed.” and sure i fucking hate this woman, but beyond

her demise, the thing i want most in this world is my dad. so let me

hope like hell something sticks this time. just for a minute.
because i know when we leave, we will—in an attempt to demonstrate

closeness—stand at the same time and embrace. but while my father

will set his pillow on the couch and walk away, i will cling
onto mine long after he’s gone, squeeze it harder and harder until its cloth

is a shadow, my lap is a child, my hands are a memory begging for warmth.



Jo Blair Cipriano is a 2019 Brooklyn Poets Fellow whose work has been published or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Copper Nickel, Epiphany Magazine, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere. She was shortlisted for the Frontier Magazine 2021 Emerging Poet's Prize, and lives in Tucson, AZ with her partner and the street cat they accidentally adopted.