My Mother Helps Me

It doesn’t matter

if you’re ready, she told me


as we wrestled by the closet mirror.

She pulled the polka dot Flamenco


dress above my head.

Stuck where breasts grew.


She said they were breasts.

I knew it was simple fat


even then. I was a fat little girl and would be

but I wanted to fit


and badly. The polka dots,

bright red on white. Like the Revlon


Fire and Ice I bartered

from the drugstore. I knew then a curvature,


how a thigh bears the imprints of the lawn-chair

long after you’re sitting.


All these women in the world

and still you feel ashamed,


she spoke into the bedroom mirror.

There was a mirror in every room


back then. I’d jump up and down,

sweaty hand around the Walkman. 17 counts.


A rest period. I thought: It will feel good,

the smallness that someday a lover


in dove grey morning

would bind me towards becoming.


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Margaret Kaplan has an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. She lives in New York and works as an editor.