Poetry: “The Demagogue Diet” by Samantha Zighelboim

I ate my way through the debates, the conventions,
that interminable election night. I ate through my classes

in the days after, trying to console my students. While you
appointed your cabinet of brutes, I was eating. I’ve eaten

through the terrified phone calls, the sad texts. I ate
while my friends marched in the streets and I was too afraid

to join them, thinking my body might take up an unforgiveable
amount of space. A conservative commentator said that

“without fat girls, there would be no protests” against you.
That “marching around and waving signs” was some exercise,

but they also “needed Atkins.” The irony was most painful
as I watched the march on TV from my couch; radiant masses

moving through the city. I chanted along as if I were there. I ate.
Demagogue, our bodies cannot bear you. You get heavier

and heavier. I mine myself for strength until I can stand up
from beneath you. Shed you. Can I diet you away? Can I

purge us of you? You’ve attached yourself to so many
of my vital organs, coating them until they are unrecognizable

opaque accumulations of fat. My heart: my mother,
an immigrant, afraid to not carry her passport at all times,

in case the wrong person hears her accent and deports her.
My lungs: my friends, terrified their families will be forced apart,

their children taken away. My stomach: my students, who had
swastikas drawn on their doors days after you were elected.

All of them asphyxiated by you. I have had to pretend
hope when I have none in order to keep them alive.

Do you understand me? I cannot stop eating. Everything
you touch turns to fat. It becomes difficult to take a breath.

***

Samantha Zighelboim’s debut collection of poems, The Fat Sonnets, is forthcoming from Argos Books in 2018. Other poems and translations have appeared in POETRY, Boston Review, The Guardian, PEN Poetry Series, Fanzine, Public Pool, Circumference: A Journal of Poetry in Translation, Sixth Finch, and Stonecutter, among others. She teaches creative writing and literature at Rutgers University and The New School. She lives in New York City and on the internet at samanthazighelboim.com.

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