WHEN I ASK MYSELF, WILTINGLY, “TO WHAT HAS MY LIFE BEEN REDUCED?” THIS IS THE ANSWER + AFTER I WAS RAPED THE SECOND TIME, I LOST 40 POUNDS,
WHEN I ASK MYSELF, WILTINGLY, “TO WHAT HAS MY LIFE BEEN REDUCED?” THIS IS THE ANSWER
Checking the tracking for the package that has still only just departed Edison New Jersey, checking the tracking for the package that has still only departed Columbus Ohio, checking the tracking for the package that is lingering in Romeoville Illinois, checking the polls, checking the other polls, the approval ratings, the COVID numbers, checking the submissions—has one ticked over to In Progress? No.—, checking the submissions of others on the submission tracker, on the women’s poetry forum, by searching “copper canyon” and “manuscript” on Twitter, checking your estranged sister’s Facebook page—she has posted your favorite podcast, which airs whole sessions of couple’s therapy; coincidence?—, checking your husband’s Facebook page—still nothing—, checking the Facebook page of a long-reviled ex, checking the Facebook page of a long-feared ex, checking the puny academic job wiki, checking the AAUP job board, checking interfolio to see if that last rec has come in, checking the polls, checking the other polls, checking the COVID numbers, checking the package lingering, checking the Edison New Jersey, checking the “copper” “manuscript,” the reviled Facebook page, the progress, forum, podcast, ex.
AFTER I WAS RAPED THE SECOND TIME, I LOST 40 POUNDS,
and everyone began congratulating me. Men, previously ambivalent
unless coercive, became lascivious. I watched reruns
of The Biggest Loser every day. I saw the lines of my face deepen
and became convinced that though I used to believe I had a pretty face
and an ugly body, the opposite was true. I had sex with the man
I would marry and cried afterward, told him I believed this
was a function of my breath, and I believed that. I couldn’t remember
anything. I ran until I destroyed my knees and couldn’t run any more.
I ate a whole microwave-in-the-bag bag of broccoli for dinner,
with a little grated cheese sprinkled. I believed I was descending
into nothingness. I descended into nothingness. I used my iPhone
to disassociate, and to take selfies. My jaw line was impeccable,
my cheekbones, razor sharp. Everyone compared how I was then
to how I was before then. The other day, I saw a picture of what
was my arm. Like the tiny bones you excavate from the pellet
of an owl, the bones of a mouse.
Katie Berta is the Managing Editor of The Iowa Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, and Massachusetts Review, among other magazines. You can find her criticism in American Poetry Review, West Branch, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She has received a residency from Millay Arts, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and an Iowa Review Award. She has her PhD in poetry from Ohio University.