Here’s our January installment of “Bushwick Bohemia Beat Poetry” curated by Bushwick-born poet, Emanuel Xavier. The series features poems by local Bushwick residents and/or natives. This month’s poem comes from Christine Stoddard.
Thirty Pounds in Three Months
On August 8, 2016, all 5’1 of my Salvadoran flesh and bones weighed 115 pounds.
My weight was documented, though I am myself undocumented.
This doctor accepted all patients, including ones whose parents stopped communicating with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
when she was still in lacquered pigtails, watching Topo Gigio on Saturdays.
The doctor’s office quoted me the same rates any documented person would pay,
but, sometimes, I still wondered if the office manager would call the police to cart me away in my hospital gown, nalgas flailing in the faces of passersby.
I did not harbor much trust or even hope, given that I was always second-guessing where to dock my ship next. Was it safe to live here another year without papers?
I worked for an auto repair shop, taking my weekly salary in cash, which my boss skimmed off the top from over-quoted jobs that clueless customers also paid in cash.
But if my boss fired me, where would I work next? Who would hire me without my papers in order? Who would pay me as well as this seedy little business paid me every week to keep their office in as tip-top shape as I kept my ship? How would I feed my son? Would I have to return to El Salvador, which I had not seen since I still thought Papá Noel was real? Since I was too young to appreciate the lorocos in my pupusas?
These questions were etched in my psyche, as common as asking what the weather was or if I needed to go to the grocery store. But the news made them multiple. With each tweet, each meme, each sound bite, I gained half an ounce.
I became less mobile. I sat on the sofa, hugging my son as I scrolled through my phone as a reflex. In reality, I was barely aware of his presence. I mainly thought of him when hunger hit me. No, not hunger, simply a need for food. The election spurred my oral fixation and I had to shove whatever snack, however unappealing or unnecessary, into my mouth. He said. She said. Back and forth ad nauseam.
On September 8, 2016, all 5’1 of my Salvadoran flesh and bones weighed 125 pounds. I might have noticed if I weren’t so preoccupied. Instead, I boiled more beans after work and obsessed over the latest immigration scares, as if my fear could change anything. All that changed was the fit of my clothes, especially pants.
By October 8, 2016, I had to buy new clothes as urgently as I needed to visit the doctor. That was how I found myself dialing the doctor’s office from the dressing room of a discount department store. I wept as I spoke to the receptionist.
The doctor could not explain my weight gain. She only asked questions for which I had no answers. Normally, I had answers to questions, but suspected pirates would raid my ship at any moment. Surely, I could not respond to “Who are you voting for?”with “I am an illegal alien and cannot vote even though I have lived in this damn country most of my life—25 years—but that’s how it is because the law is cruel.”
The doctor promised to run a few tests and get back to me. I heard nothing.
By November 8, 2016, I did not recognize myself with 30 extra pounds on my frame.
My face was bloated. My hands were fat. Yet as I watched a map of the U.S. blush until it glowed red, I knew I wasn’t suffering from cancer or a thyroid condition. And I knew that it would take me four years to lose the weight.
Though I might be slimming down por allá because of the new administration.
This poem is forthcoming in Transition: Poems in the Aftermath from Indolent Books.
Christine Stoddard’s work has appeared in The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Bustle, and beyond. Born in Virginia to a Salvadoran mother and American father, Stoddard lives in Brooklyn with her husband and collaborator, David Fuchs. Check out Christine’s upcoming event, Lady Pandora. Cover art by Christine Stoddard.