Poems of Body Positivity
Playlist by Emilia Phillips 7 poems
These poems are of the body, toward body positivity. They acknowledge what many other poems hide, and they often times celebrate it. “Years ago, a teacher said never to use the word ‘poop’ in a poem,” writes Chen Chen just after the speaker of his poem “Winter” describes “smelly bowel movements.” This is not a poem that approaches this subject matter to shock or startle the reader; instead the poem makes a case for the whole embodied experience, from the labor of excretions to the tenderness of queer love. Morgan Parker demands autonomy, and Katie Condon develops a enraptured reverence for a woman’s body. Jenny Johnson invokes the desired self-image, Nicole Sealey candidly shares details of one’s bodily experience relevant to medical professionals, and sam sax celebrates a butt plug, whereas Rachel McKibbens explores an early sexual experience. These poems call the body forth, insist that it “Come glistening” into the light.
1. Winter
Chen Chen
2. Let Me Handle My Business, Damn
Morgan Parker
3. On the seventh day God says: What you’ve got is virgin charm & a knife in your pocket.
Katie Condon
4. Summoning the Body That Is Mine When I Shut My Eyes
Jenny Johnson
5. Medical History
Nicole Sealey
6. Butt Plug
sam sax
7. the second time
Rachel McKibbens
Big smelly bowel movements this blue January morning.

From the living room TV, a commercial from our TV company: We’re the fastest, the only — 

Meaning, Love us above all others.

What makes poop more pungent on certain days?

A question for science.

From the living room TV: the powerful cite Law, bark Order — 

Meaning, Love us or else.

Years ago, a teacher said never to use the word “poop” in a poem.

Today, the icy kiss of the toilet seat wakes me up.

Today, I poop while my boyfriend shouts from the living room, Did you hear that, meaning the atomic scientists who say we are now two & a half minutes to midnight.

But still I marvel whenever poop comes out as one true Platonic tube.

I am trying to be marvelous.

& to make my enemies throw up.

I mean, if you shower with soap & eat well, maintaining consistent gastrointestinal health, you should be ready for a rimjob or other forms of anal play.

My boyfriend & I are not platonic.

From the TV: a white supremacist cites Science, barks Two sides to every —

I mean, up the throat, out the mouth: the fastest, the only way the powerful will let go of their shit.

I mean, my boyfriend & I are not into scat but if you are I hope your beloved produces the most fragrant, citrusy shit.

I mean, is “shit” more or less literary than “poop”?

I mean, one winter night I got sick & pooped the bed.

& he just got up with me.

Helped strip the sheets, carry it all to the washer.

I kept saying, I’m so sorry, shivering, I’m so, I’m sorry. But he said, What? Hey. I love you.
originally appeared in Poetry (July/August 2017)
Took me awhile to learn the good words
make the rain on my window grown
and sexy now I’m in the tub holding down
that on-sale Bordeaux pretending
to be well adjusted I am on that real
jazz shit sometimes I run the streets
sometimes they run me I’m the body
of the queen of my hood filled up
with bad wine bad drugs mu shu pork
sick beats what more can I say to you
I open my stylish legs I get my swagger
back let men with gold teeth bow to my tits
and the blisters on my feet I become electric
I’m a patch of grass the stringy roots
you call home or sister if you want
I could scratch your eyes make hip-hop die again
I’m on that grown woman shit before I break
the bottle’s neck I pour a little out: I am fallen
From There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books, 2017). Reprinted with permission. Originally appeared in Poetry (April 2015).
& I’m like, Thanks?

The heart finds its anchor in the sky.

The woman is told she is a tabernacle.

On the forty-third day, I confuse my hangover for grief.

God says, Your longing will be for me, & I will dominate you.
& I’m like, Nope!

The morning wears a cotton dress.

Is this all I will amount to:

          The hot breath of months in my pocket?
          Every telephone pole I mistook for a tree?
          The melancholy suspicion of library security?


The bartender hums the tune
of a hummingbird rising from its flower.

I say: I inherited Sappho’s pussy
& I believe me.

God says, Thou shalt not kill.
& I’m like, But what about with my eyes.

I never asked for the capacity to love
ugly things, but here I am.

Carnation, daisy, lavender lately the lavender of late.

I boil my stock exclusively with wishbones.

I say, I like my men smooth & far away, reticent
as a bookshelf.
& God butts in: I can do that for you.

His eyes search me like a pendulum.

I’ve scraped a dead man’s ashes out
from under my fingernails like lice eggs.

A woman raised in contest with other women is a child of God.

God says, This is getting serious.
& I’m like, You bet.

I remember my ignorance
& miss it.

The skies open silently with a woman’s legs.

Morning glory, morning glory, morning hallelujah.
originally appeared in BOAAT
Come second heartbeat sounding in the breast
Come prismatic light dissembling
Come familiar spirit  Come bare-chested in the weeds
Come private imposter  Come hidden ballast
Come sudden departures  Come stress without shape
Because belief is odd  Come swaggering answer
Come invisible ink  Come beatific scrawl
Come as squirrels are climbing backwards
Come as dogwood blossoms come apart
Come strumming an unspeakable power ballad
Through a torrent of rain with cheeks flushed scarlet
Come down the rusty metal slide
Come belted kingfisher flapping
Come lavender asters wheeling
Come loose, a sapling lengthening
Come honeysuckle  Come glistening
I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had sex with a man
who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.
My mother has, my mother’s mother had,
asthma. My father had a stroke. My father’s
mother has high blood pressure.
Both grandfathers died from diabetes.
I drink. I don’t smoke. Xanax for flying.
Propranolol for anxiety. My eyes are bad.
I’m spooked by wind. Cousin Lilly died
from an aneurysm. Aunt Hilda, a heart attack.
Uncle Ken, wise as he was, was hit
by a car as if to disprove whatever theory
toward which I write. And, I understand,
the stars in the sky are already dead.
i paid extra
so you'd feel like skin

little engine
piece of paper with my name on it

ditched your hard rubber
ancestor for this silicone surrogate

have you ever seen
a rubber tree bleed?

almost like a man
if you cut him

who knew petroleum
could be rearranged

to approximate
the feel of a body

little globe-shaped thing
you are the world

& what the world wishes
it could be

little synthetic organ
all my training

could not prepare
me for

bless the tip & flange
unassuming gargantuan

blush, new husband
i carry in me all day

black synthetic abacus
solitary prayer bead

bless the phantom
you become

& the man who vanishes
when i'm done

bless the crow slick
soaped washing

little coronation
the crown & the hole

little coroner opening
me to the unknown
originally appeared in Southern Humanities Review
was in my classmate’s
mouth. Lying on

the floor of her baby blue
bedroom she asked,

Do you think
you’re a boy or a girl?

& everything inside
me came bruising

to the surface.
Neither, I said

& it was understood.
In that charged silence,

she rolled over, draped
her wronged body

over mine, as if to anchor
the damaged bastard

with no desire to stay.
She listened to the awakened

heat of me, its bright
song infecting my blood.

Our feral bodies, driven
by un-mothered chaos

returned each other to
the living. All hail

the power of a proper
finger fuck & the wet

demolition of shame.
What I had once

mistaken for death
was, instead, a door.