Liberating Words: “Worth It”

12670597125_8f7d0a5b74_zThe poems contained in this series, “Liberating Words,” came out of an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston. The course, “The Personal Is Political:  An Interdisciplinary Look at Feminism,” is co-taught by Libby Parsley, a history teacher, and Susanna Ryan, an English teacher. The second unit of the course focuses on the history and literature of second-wave feminism: the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Students read a compilation of poems by women writers from that period and then wrote their own poems; the assignment asked them to represent an issue or problem they see as central to 21st-century women’s experience through the very personal genre of poetry.

Worth It

By Priya Shukla

It isn’t restrictive
I can eat anything and I can swallow anything but I just –
I can’t keep anything down
I won’t keep the weight
I have to surrender something for beauty
They say it hurts to be beautiful
It is supposed to be painful
It is worth it to push the food down my throat and force myself to swallow although
I know soon I won’t feel full

Now here I am again
and I can sense the tears starting to arrive and my throat burns and my face feels
but I don’t feel hot
All I feel is my sweaty hair falling around my face and my tight, streaky cheeks
and my weak, exhausted body
All I see is the swirl of saltwater and my grilled cheese sandwich as it starts to flush away
Down and away
The lingering smell of my lunch reeks as I force myself to breathe through my mouth
but then all I taste is the bitter remains and the stomach acid and so I tear my eyes away from the food and glance up

The glaring mirror betrays my idealized perfection
My face is thin
as a starving child
My bloodshot eyes are tired
of not being enough
or of being too much

It is worth it
I don’t need to be full I need to be perfect
It has to be worth it, right?

Priya Shukla, 16, attends the Winsor School in Boston. She enjoys fashion, rowing, and her newfound appreciation for poetry.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kelsey licensed under Creative Commons 2.0