Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | March 2, 2013

Finding Poetry in a Scrapbook


The previous post mentions a poem springing from the pages of an scrapbook I made after finishing high school.  I still have the old thing in the closet of my study.  Opening it takes me back to that summer I assembled it by trolling the pages of fashion and decorating magazines, cutting out pictures of items and scenes I found beautiful.  I still like most of the pieces I clipped — guess my tastes haven’t changed much over the years!

But what the photos also remind me of is how sick I was that year — with anorexia.  What a lonely and damaging condition it is.  Girls at my school still struggle with this — though fortunately not in the huge numbers they once did.  I’m lucky to have crawled out of the black hole of anorexia over time, but it left physical and emotional scars that I’ll never totally shed.

The comment that did the most to help “cure” me was made by my good old G. P., who told me my body is a machine that needs certain elements to operate efficiently, including proteins and fats — just as a car needs gasoline and oil.  As soon as I stopped thinking about my body BEING me, and instead started seeing it as the vehicle which CARRIED me, I began to mend.

Our culture has gotten better, but it still has much work to do in the area of promoting healthier and more varied body types.  I put the blame largely on women’s fashion magazines and advertising, which continue to try and convince females that our bodies are the only thing that matter…. that our bodies are who we are.  But of course they are not.  Whether we gain or lose 100 pounds, we are the spiritual/emotional/intellectual/intangible “thing” residing inside.

Magazine Summer

There she is in the scrapbook:

the model in the photo from 1979,glamour 1974

still beautiful, smiling in her

azalea-pink sweater and white skirt,

hair in perfect swoops against

her cheeks and shoulders,

lavender pumps perched on the steps

of some antebellum façade.

She’s a model selling clothes, but

to me she was quintessential—

backlit with sunlight, poised for

a life of confident elegance.

That was the year I regressed into

second girlhood through anorexia,

feeding only on the fear of a world

that I was sure would eat me alive.

All summer, preparing to leaveSunroomCA4c-300x224

for college, I lay on my bed among

the glossy pages of Glamour, Redbook,

and House Beautiful, dreaming a future

of warm comfort and perfection—

flower-filled parlors with pastelled walls,

billowing draperies, cats coiled on divans.

From closets of skirts and sweaters

and ribboned straw hats, I could one day

emerge as the girl from Ipanema,

carefree and gazed upon, secure as

a photograph glued to a page.

The scrapbook rests on a shelf, with

its wicker sun rooms pres de la mer

and lace-covered tables set for eternal tea.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I turn the frayed pages and smile,

sipping coffee from an old mug,

tucking a strand of graying hair

behind my ear, offering up gratitude

for the fullness of my life.  I glance

once more at the model on the steps—

ever youthful like Dorian Gray.

Oh, how pink is that sweater still.

How golden the mid-day light.



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