I wrote the poem for a nightclub flyer in Galway almost 20 years ago. I found a copy of the flyer in my parents’ attic, while I was assembling my collected poems in 2010, and included it in the book.
She came across probably the only copy in Japan, brought there by Robert, a friend of mine. I would guess that a few hundred people have read it, certainly less than a thousand. It occurred to me that if it meant so much to her, maybe it would mean something to some other strangers too. So I’ve decided to put it on my blog, below. (Poems are just birds that fly in your window; the writer doesn’t own them.)
If it means something to you, no problem; copy it, print it out, put it on a T-shirt, whatever.
For those who like to know the story behind any piece of writing; no, I won’t tell you the details. But yes, it turned out OK for some of the women I knew back then. Not so well for others.
-Julian, Berlin, June 2013
THE ANOREXIC BODY-BUILDER
If I'm very lucky, once a year
(Maybe twice, if I've been eating fish)
I am dazzled by a bright idea
And here's the one I got this year (I wish
It was a bit more bright, but it's bright-ish)
Anyway, yes, body-building, then.
It's an anorexia for men.
All the girls I know hate body-builders,
Find the mass of rippling flesh disgusting
Certainly not sexy. It bewilders
Boys to think their sister could be thrusting
Fingers down her throat like that... No lusting
After bulk for women then. And mannish
Boys have no desire at all to vanish.
To blow the self up, and to disappear:
Two expressions of a single urge
To shout the Will and make the body hear
The body-builder wills the flesh to surge
The anorexic wills an ebb, a purge
The Stalin of the mind lets the tanks roll:
The body is a place they can control
Each pursues a lunatic ideal
Each is lonely in the mad pursuit
When the vision of oneself's unreal
The vision of all others lacks a root
The muscle-man exploding through his suit
The wisp of girl who frowns at her reflection
They both recede from us toward Perfection.
This should end with some kind of conclusion.
Final statement. Answer to the riddle.
If I could, I'd give you the solution
Or at least some figures you could fiddle
But I can't, I'm stuck here in the middle
Seeing men expand and women shrink
I watch them go, and don't know what to think.
(From The Psychedelian, Issue 3 Volume 1, Thursday Oct. 21st, 1994. Collected in Free Sex Chocolate, Salmon Poetry, 2010.)