Loren Kleinman






The body is a poem


I’m beautiful. I want you to say it with me under the dim bathroom light: I. Am. Beautiful.

I take solace in the light on my face. I take solace in the light on my skin, on the fat that creases and bulges. I love my body, sometimes more than other times.

I’ve doubted my temple in the past. I’ve fed it horrible things like stress and butter and beer. I’ve hated it and squeezed my stomach in front of the mirror. I’ve made faces at my overweight self. Not today.

I remember where I started: I am beautiful. I put the magazine down. I stop reading the lines about how to fit in my jeans better (or for that matter, how to fit in). I tell the page it doesn’t know me like I know me. I tell myself I’m not a model. I tell myself the models are not even models. They are made of wood held together by string.

I stand in front of the mirror. My skin is a white sheet of paper. My eyes are two buckets of brown dirt. I don’t cry anymore over my curves. I feed it apples, pears, and squash. I feed it squats and walks. I wash the sweat off from my workout in a warm, lavender-scented shower. The shower is a lake from a dream I had.

I don’t body-shame myself. I don’t let others body shame me either. I’m responsible for how I see myself in this world, in this long and wide world of hurtful words and scams of the heart.

Go now. This is not a body of hate. This body does not hate itself. There’s nothing here to consume, but love. Self-sabotage is a hand that does not hurt me anymore. My body sings me to sleep. My body is ground, gravel, twigs, and brambles.

My feet dangle from the bed. I examine the cracked skin, the dried patches on the tops of my toes. I see my legs, freckled and chubby, against the cat’s back. I rub my arms, the stretched skin, too. I pull my messy hair back in a bun and sigh deep and slow. The room is quiet. The bathroom mirror is quiet. There is no sound—only my heart, gentle and warm, and it says, Thank you for loving me again. And my fingers rest on my chest. They can hear the sound of my heart.

I push myself off the bed and look in the long, wooden framed mirror. All those spots. All those scars and scabs. All those dimples in the thigh. It’s all a poem to me.




I am worm


I picked up my slimy, sticky, dried-up body and carried to the next reed of grass, into the next space of dirt. I kept my heart in my gut and squeezed out all the dead cells of my skin, cleansed myself in the potpourri of flowers. The bees rode me and harnessed my power.

Worm. I am worm. Earth and daughter and sun. Save me, I looked up. Save the earth in my body, the dirt in my worm. I became a strong worm, a worm nothing could eat, a steel worm, a sunflower worm. I didn’t care to be anything else.

I curled up under the deck. I ate dirt, became dirt, ate decaying roots and leaves, even the manure from a fat cow. The cool air, the cool soil, dirt, cracked sticks, mushroom, potato… all love me. All. All.

No birds scared me. No ground swallowed me whole, no pinch from rubber soles. My digestion kept me whole, a root in the sunken soil, and I made a tunnel to rest in. I ate more dirt and released it. I drank fresh water and nibbled on thyme.

Water couldn’t sink me. Streets couldn’t kill me, tear me apart, or flatten me. I’m 600 million years old.

I drilled into the wet sand, ate a small chip of rock. I cared less than the fly and more than the bee. Wanted honey and tea, wanted to float in the mixture, ease a sting.

Earth. Inside the earth. Burrowing into the dirt and grit and slime.

I’m the earth’s intestine, small gizzard, and large mouth. I eat trouble whole, garbage and tissue paper. Love me. Love me, I say. I heart you. I don’t need pills like you, human. I hold my own hand in despair. I’m a one-worm kind of worm.

I hear you from under the deck, feel the burger drippings on my back, and wait for the broken carrot heads to fall onto me. No eyes. I don’t need eyes. I feel it all, even silence.

I don’t need to stalk or kill. I am holier than that. I clean the guts of the dirt, the stomach of the dead cow, split squirrel. I can live the way I want. No We. Just I, long and certain of my life, confident about my body, no eyes needed to see in a mirror what I don’t like. Nothing to change. I’m the earth’s angel.

I don’t need approval, no validation of my prettiness, or ugliness. Worm, caterpillar, wormwood, silk parachute. All worm. No doubt.

I live anywhere I want, go where the light feels warm. My back, my belly, all the same. Worm in the dirt, line on paper, pen in the mud, poem in the grass, smile on the sidewalk. Worm slow and cool by the poolside, dried up like leather. No regrets, this worm. No bones, no jaw, no skull to hold me back.

Unhinged in the hand and in the fields and in the woods. Call me worm, call me Vermis from a great height. Human against the clouds, thoughtless giant, know-it-all. I’m the most perfect freedom, soil’s necessity, pure and obedient to nature, my tail in the pond, stomach against the bramble, mouth in the dirt. I’ll never let the grass go, the roots tangled down here next to the wild rose.






Born: Year of the Rooster.


Favorite food: Salted bread.


Early childhood: Became rocks.  Dragged my knees through dirt. Wrapped the night around my shoulders.


Adolescence: I collected daisies. Graduated from one school to go to the next. Met a man. He loved me so. Left man and met another. Wrote a book. Ate the pages.


Late Adolescence: Ate the rooster. Swam to the center of the moon. Floated in the sky, fell down to the ground, skinned my face. Loved my lips, dressed them in the dark.


At Present: Loving myself. Eating clouds. Typing up a storm. Covering my head from the rain.


Recipient of no award.


Statement: People wanted to cut out all the things they didn’t like about me. I taped my body, hid from their fingers, from their long arms. I lifted my head up and licked the sun, sucked out all the clouds from the sky, and held them in my belly. I am whole now. I don’t know what it feels like to be in pieces anymore.


P.S. If you are missing pieces of your body, leave a note for them and wait for them to find their way back to you.


The words are butterflies, the pages their wings. Inside me, a field of green grass, a powerful potion made out of ink, of unborn words and broken mirrors. The ink turns the hands into messengers, a flute held with love.





(Excerpts from the book The Woman with A Million Hearts)











Loren Kleinman has published four full-length poetry collections: Flamenco Sketches, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, Breakable Things, and Stay with Me Awhile, and a memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts. Her non-fiction appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Seventeen, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post, while her poetry appeared in Drunken Boat, The Moth, Columbia Journal, Patterson Literary Review, and more.

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