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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2018 - Vol. 15, Issue 3

"Debunking The Butterfly Effect" and "A Response to the Return of King's Article '5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder"

written by

Laura Ingram


Born between entropy and atrophy, I scream as if I have every right to.


Still jaundiced as the dawn's blistered palm, my first phase references the mediocrity of myth, crescent teeth waning gibbous tongue; I tell my mother the man in the moon
knows my middle name.


Omniscient as God, I bounce around the baby seat on the back of my mother's bike. Our street would fit in the top shelf of a China Cabinet.


I twirl around my room, steps asymmetrical as an analog signal, fingers curled into fists
like the magnetic tape inside of cassettes.


The teacher makes me student of the week more than once but I don't like to lead the


I perform an appendectomy on Barbie, one of her pink plastic pumps serving as the
scalpel, barricade the decapitated Ken doll from the Dream House door with tiny teal
cups from the set my sister never wanted.


I have six pairs of lace-trimmed socks and two cherry alligator clips, as well as the worst handwriting in the class. I staple seven sheets of coral construction paper, come to my mother clutching at the color. I have taken it upon myself to recount the birth of a bird in cloud-spat blue block letters. No one except the wind had such irascible wrists.


I get my first library card, dry dandelions between the page breaks. I hope to grow my
hair down to my hipbones or heels, to go to bed hungry like the gilded girls flitting
through a thousand forests in perfect asymmetry.


The school nurse passes a maxi pad, pink as Poland, around the room, tells us we were born with all the eggs we'd ever need to make babies already in our ovaries. Watching myself wince in the space between the mirror and me, I decide something as brutal as girlhood isn't meant to be discrete.


My rapid eye movement follows the Fibonacci sequence; I dream between catechism
and chasm. My friend and I cover the grave of another class's guinea pig with pine
needles during recess, cry as if we have every right to.


I teach myself elementary Latin and intermediate American Sign Language, shiver
through another lesson in almost. I coerce myself into a crush on a boy with eyes like
Orion, although his mouth may be the biggest impact crater on this side of ephemera,
and despite him thinking Anna McPherson is prettier and telling me so.
So much of our love is convinced.


I speak softer than the Seine, shuffle the heels of my hands, skid through the hallways
in silver Mary Janes, shudder in a beige bathroom stall for the first fifteen minutes of
Friday afternoon gym, cradle my skull between both forefingers and thumbs, act as the
archaeologist of my own anonymity.


The boy behind me in English class calls me Auschwitz after we discuss the diary of
Anne Frank, insists the department stores don't make skinny jeans skinny enough for

me. The half-life of anorexia is always; I shiver between oxidation numbers,
metacarpals one electron reduction below destabilization.


Seventy-six pounds of gossamer and syncope, I show up for my first day at the local
arts high school in a checkered skirt from the children's department, enchant my
classmates with my squeaky voice and squeaky shoes.


Gawky and static as a grade school graduation, no one points but everyone stares at
my clavicle breaking into blossom like a lilac or the long green hair of a headstone from my rotting body.


The smaller that I get, the larger the slouching city where I sleep seems, its
decaffeinated expressways brighter and emptier than me. I spend six months in the
hospital, grow as if I have every right to.


My class crowns me homecoming queen, but someone has to show me where I stand;
I'm not sure who I am when my hands have stopped shaking.


I swallow my shimmering dreams, wake as if I have every right to.

Amongst Other Things
me, shuffling round the lavender dim of the kitchen
like the planchette on a Ouija board ,

palms two scraps of crepe-de-chine,
albino hurricane rapping her split knuckles against the window
squinting the sty from her eye.

me, gracelessly kicking the car door closed
against the cold,
chapped face pinker than Poland,
clutching the paper bag rattling with your prescriptions,
bottles pale as the blood of butterflies
with both hands.

"The Veneration of Lace"


I suppose God spat me out along with his last loose molar,
fashioned my vertebrae from the spine of
a banned book,
overdue heart held together with library paste.


Saint Catherine of Siena vomited
spider silk, the lacerated legs of locusts,
all the lowercase letters in my name,

Rinsed her mouth with my runny dreams,

aspirated our twin tremors.


I, too, refuse the Eucharist at fifteen
bow my head between
hypoglycemia and hypocrisy,
canonize my second vanishing act,
the first time I tossed my sandwich, untouched,
in the trash on the way to recess--
the first disappearance, of course occurring
that off-white witching hour
a nurse unwrapping me from
the crinkled crinoline of my mother’s womb,
already crying with colic
misplacing my bassinet
In the illegible light cast over hospital hallways
until an anonymous father found me.

"A Response to the Return of King's Article
'5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder'"

5. She is better in bed.
  She sterilizes herself with Chanel No. 5. Her clavicles bud with bluebells at the
brush of your fingers.
  In the time of tuberculosis, when a man wanted to impress a woman, he would
learn the language of flowers.
  Most of the perennials were meant for apologies.
  She insists you scrub the dirt from beneath your nail beds before she slides
under the sheet. You didn't know love was something with prerequisites.
  She doesn't have to know you only kiss her pelvic bones for practice. She won't
remember the alias for alarm you whisper in her ear.
  When surgical students are training with cadavers, the fat comes off before they
open up.
  She will love you and love you until she is empty, behind closed doors and
beneath open palms again.

4. Probably has money of her own
  She picks up the tab when you take her out for sushi, tap the tines of her fork against her teacup, cleaves her lettuce into crescents while your friends stare, and when she gets up to go to the bathroom, they ask you what is wrong with her and you pretend not to know.
  She comes back to the table, eyes red and whirring as the evening news, leaves
a generous tip.
  When you lean down to kiss her goodnight, her mouth has been replaced with a
hot line number.
3. She is fragile and vulnerable.
  Her doctors worry she will fall and break her hip. She worries you will
remember she is only ulna and aspartame, and leave her in search of something more
  She never leaves dishes in the sink, but her hair is falling out, and her sweater
isn't clean.
2. She will probably cost less money
  Her nightmares are the color of magazines. She trims diet plans out of
  Women's Day in hospital waiting rooms, laminates her frontal lobe, cancels her
subscription to the cerebellum. You watch her rustle into a backless paper gown,
wonder if, as a little girl, she ever sliced supermodels from the pages of her sister's
seventeen, snipped off bits of their legs and creased them into chair's at Barbie's
kitchen table.

  You take her to a dietitian, a psychiatrist, a holistic healer. The bills grapple with
her pill bottles for space on the countertop.
  She apologizes when men with small eyes and large hands tell you she is dying;
they do not.
1. Her Obsession with Her Body will Improve her Overall Appearance
  She knows the reflection she flushes down the toilet is distorted, but she

looks smaller here than in any of the mirrors.
  She stares at herself in the flat side of the spoons when she rinses the
silverware, organizes the knives dull-side down, but you still worry that she will hurt
herself with a salad fork.
  She never leaves the house without makeup, always rinses her mouth before
cringing from your kiss.

  Date a girl with an eating disorder. Watch her ghost from the body in your

bed to a body in a box.
  All that's left is a life of hospital corners and cereal getting soggy.
  Both of you on your knees.

Laura Ingram is a tiny girl with big glasses and bigger ideas.
Her poetry and prose have been published in forty-two literary magazines, among them
Gravel Magazine, The Crucible, If and Only If, The Blue Marble Review, and Juked
Literary Journal. Laura is a featured author in critically acclaimed mental illness

anthology "HIdden Lives" edited by Andrew Boden and a creative writing major at Hollins University. Harry Styles once stopped his entire concert for her.

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