Shrinking to the Photo-Finish by Kiernan Norman

RK field
Photo courtesy of Rachel Kertz

Twelve years old and I knew I was too much.
.

A body too much — a stomach that stretched and stuck,
and a waist left red, dented, stinging after a day in jeans.

A brain too much — a thought process that took flight
without permission and dropped rogue missiles of ideas
in phone calls with great aunts, deep in essays
during state funded tests, and leaked from brown paper bags
in middle school lunchrooms, leaving me silent and sticky and
only just fitting in.

Any conversation was secondary to
the fuzzy way I could feel,
my mouth tripping hard to keep up with a dizzy brain,
and even before a sentence finished,
feeling regret like warm honey coat my throat and
seep down hot and solid to my roaring gut.

I was a heart too much.
Tears ran forceful and free for
so long. There was the heavy,
lonely feeling that grabbed root at my pelvis
and lounged, languid for days — sucking any hope I could muster
out of tan hide until only leather shell remained.

Dawn would find me ushering in chilling spells of misery
triggered by the whole wide world —
a boy with a gun on the news,
a teacher’s tight forehead while mean kids flexed their puberty,
or finding a picture of my parents before they were my parents
and wondering if they ever actually knew love.

At twelve years old my soul was stretched out and sagging.
At twelve years old I held tight to being less.
At twelve years old I knew only one way to dull the aches sprouting
as fast and fresh as ivy inside my bones.

At twelve every birthday candle and eyelash,
every wishbone and 11:11
was devoted to smallness and simplicity.
So certain that the less of me there was,
the less I would have to bear from the world.

More than half my life I’ve spent in pursuit of sharp
bones to shield and a lithe tread to conceal.
I have itched to be a sole shrinking girl among
the growing and gaining of peers —
to finally find quiet in a body that
was beginning to ripen in a shrill,
panicky way that would just not do.

More than a decade I’ve spent with bile on my breath
and scrappy knuckles desperately begging
the arrangement of meat and bone I live in
to contract — to fold back in on itself and strengthen
into a place where I could catch my breath and
learn to tend.

Now, too many seasons and too many
mistakes later — I do wake up in
a smaller body. Twelve-year-old me is
beaming as she sneaks glances at the XS’s
stitched in labels and the chorus of likes that
coo and comment how darling I look in dresses.

Twelve-year-old me is quietly,
solemnly psyched about the bruises that bloom across
my paling curves after a good stretch on ground.
She even nods her head gleefully
to my swaying pulse as it dances to its own, faraway music.

Twelve-year-old me could care less about the bone-buried knots
entombed along my spine and the putty-snap cracking
bones I show off like party tricks.
She sees the yolky shimmer of eyeballs and trail of hairs I shed
like bread crumbs marking my path, and she doesn’t bat an eyelash.
She’s glad she managed it —
and anyway the price is worth the discomfort;
health in youth is mostly overrated.

But I do wonder what greedy, vicious
twelve-year-old me would think if she knew
I am still, secretly, too much.

Could she muster any pride as she feels
my heavy, fatigued heart expand to fill the bits
and dark corner secrets I starved away?
Or any pity as she watches empty-word fog crawl
between ribs and bellow out like a pirate’s flag under raised hipbones?
She meets the murky mass that fills my frame — heavy and suspended
like a dark towering cumulous
waiting for the bow to break and the storm to fall.

Maybe she’d find my brain chemistry unnerving —
seeing desperate fists pawing at ideas as they are born and implode
and holding numbly to loose bits, reeling them in stunted fervor like kite strings.
Thunder cracks, and I’m not nearly electric.

So I grip tight, sinking decalcified teeth
into the catch of the day, rowing a rusty canoe out of the
whirling, mirrored lake of my mind and back to shore.
I will attempt to fit my
hard won ideas into any and all variables.
I will drive myself crazy with inspiration
but never create a damn thing.

The thoughts coursing through my almost-there body are
flexed horses. They gallop around
the same dirt track for days on end, and I have bet
what’s left of my youth on photo-finish losses.
I’ve got nothing to show for who I am these days.
Except for the dresses.
I look good in the dresses.

 

 

 

Kiernan Norman is a writer, actor, and singer. She serves pizza and makes a mean collage. She studies at Southern Connecticut State University and has also attended The New School University. Kiernan is, above all, trying to enjoy the ride.

Rachel Kertz was born in a small town in Missouri in 1988. While earning her degree at Southeast Missouri State University, she became interested in photography and began using her commutes as excuses to go on long drives through the rural countrysides, hoping to find locations and abandoned houses to photograph. She hopes to convey relatable stories in her images that speak to her audience on themes such as loneliness, love, exploration, and the feeling of being alone in unconventionally beautiful places. You can find more of her work on Flickr.

Kiernan Norman
Kiernan Norman is a writer, actor, and singer. She serves pizza and makes a mean collage. She studies at Southern Connecticut State University and has also attended The New School University. Kiernan is, above all, trying to enjoy the ride.

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