by Betsy Mars
Seeking solace in ice cream, cream cake,
calorie counting, maintaining a semblance of control,
pounds falling off like ill-fitting jeans.
The anorexic spell is broken, and another cycle begins:
binge and purge: indulgence without consequences
I think - until my acid-washed tonsils rebel and I’m 19
in the pediatric ward, recovering with Jello
and ice cream (no less) and syrup sweet codeine
to lessen the pain.
Discharged, exercise replaces bulimia -
another attempt to control
my body, my image - seeking perfection -
always striving to be my mother, my brother, another.
Rigid allegiance to my self-imposed
regime: a dictator without discretion.
My 20s and 30s spent running away from myself
into music and television, the noise a distraction
from the void my dreams left when puberty arrived.
Finding comfort in fantasy and adrenaline,
in other people’s struggles, followed by
withdrawals from Downton Abbey,
the end of basketball season, the last episode of Survivor.
Seeking my next fix, pink elephants push into the room,
filling its empty space, rearing on heavy hindquarters,
their pleather skin breaking out in a cold sweat of withdrawal.
Pain and change are a nicotine patch
on my spirit, my spirit emptied, lost.
Bone-shaking delirium, tremors
against the open places, seeking an edge,
seeking a boundary, a safe place, strait-jacketed.
Bouncing from one extreme to the other,
not knowing or wanting any middle ground.
Swaddled, disarmed and alarmed, I move
on to the next, high or low:
only stimulus or sleep can soothe,
no solace in purgatory, anything to avoid
* * * * *
Perdition was first published in Snorted the Moon & Doused the Sun: An Anthology of Addiction Poetry, edited by Deann Meeks Brown and Raundi Moore-Kondo (For the Love of Words Press, copyright 2017).
Betsy Mars is a southern California poet who is in a perpetual battle with change – finally coming to some kind of a truce, and at times even love and acceptance. She is an educator, mother, animal lover, and over-excited traveler. Her poetry has been published in a number of places, both online and in print, most recently in Sheila-Na-Gig, The Ekphrastic Review, and Red Wolf Journal. Writing has given her a means to explore her preoccupation with mortality and her evolving sense of self.