let me see your shame

the reflection twists, my spine curves, and

i rest my palm on my sternum as if to strangle

myself —instead i feel my clavicle like a prize

my clavicle sits below the skin, hidden below layers

of fat, the fat that coats my thighs, blankets

my shoulders—makes my stomach swell and sag

in high school i felt this nagging sensation that i was

not beautiful, that people didn’t find me beautiful—

so i began to see myself through your eyes


i turn up carroll street, and a group of men are sitting, standing

smoking on both sides of the concrete—because i know

what it is to be feasted upon, i straighten and look ahead

let me see your shame—i won a gold key for the essay called

“build your own double consciousness,” but the essay was

a lie, it has never been my clavicle—it is the stomach i hate

as a child, i wanted was to wear my mother’s crocheted bikini

—fantasized i was made out of clay so i could pull

off myself in chunks, mold myself beautiful


the psych ward—the man in the wheelchair,

who peed on the day room floor, tells darrious

you get the skinny one, i get the chunky one

my roommate says—as men get older

they like full bodies, my nipples show through

my bellevue blues, and i suck a tootsie pop

george growls hot breath in my ear, i want to suck

on those titties, his skin is worn, dirty when he is clean,

—when he loses it, i am sure he will hurt me


i am on top of a man who says, you’re thick and like it,

like he’s lying, and then ghosts—in his mirror,

i am beautiful when i am still, rubenesque, a carved relief

when i can stand it, i hold my stomach, tenderly—

i have been rough with her, angry, cruel—i called her

terrible things as if i am not her, as if she is not me

i remember the hip bones of middle school girls

in low rise jeans, all married now—i see the body

i wanted, a skeleton, angles and ribs and clavicle


the double consciousness essay would have been better

if i had used the clavicle as a metaphor—i was seventeen

and certain my soft body made me unlovable

now, i am certain i am unlovable because i am strange,

intense, emotional, and crazy—when i starved myself, 

i lost forty pounds, but the stomach remained

now, i am certain i am beautiful because you have betrayed

yourself, told me with your eyes, and of course—

i have no sense of my beauty, without your stare

Naomi Brenman is a writer from Brooklyn. She Graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied Creative Nonfiction and Religion. She now finds the brevity of poetry exciting. Her work draws on Biblical themes and aims to amplify the experience of living with mental illness. Her work has appeared in Red Noise Collective and Peach Fuzz, and forthcoming in The Institutionalized Review. She can be found at @neighhhhomi on Instagram.
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