What are big girls made of?

Original Text: 
© Marge Piercy. What Are Big Girls Made of? by Marge Piercy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997): 23-26. PS 3566 I4W48 1997 Robarts Library
2a woman is not made of flesh
3of bone and sinew
4belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
5She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
6She is retooled, refitted and redesigned
7every decade.
8Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
9She wriggled through bars like a satin eel,
10her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed
11in the dark red lipstick of desire.
12She visited in '68 still wearing skirts
13tight to the knees, dark red lipstick,
14while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt,
15lipstick pale as apricot milk,
16hair loose as a horse's mane. Oh dear,
17I thought in my superiority of the moment,
18whatever has happened to poor Cecile?
19She was out of fashion, out of the game,
20disqualified, disdained, dis-
21membered from the club of desire.
22Look at pictures in French fashion
23magazines of the 18th century:
24century of the ultimate lady
25fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
27each way, while the waist is pinched
28and the belly flattened under wood.
29The breasts are stuffed up and out
30offered like apples in a bowl.
31The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
32never meant for walking.
33On top is a grandiose headache:
34hair like a museum piece, daily
35ornamented with ribbons, vases,
36grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
37sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
38of a hairdresser turned loose.
39The hats were rococo wedding cakes
40that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
41Here is a woman forced into shape
42rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
43a woman made of pain.
44How superior we are now: see the modern woman
45thin as a blade of scissors.
46She runs on a treadmill every morning,
47fits herself into machines of weights
48and pulleys to heave and grunt,
49an image in her mind she can never
50approximate, a body of rosy
51glass that never wrinkles,
52never grows, never fades. She
53sits at the table closing her eyes to food
54hungry, always hungry:
55a woman made of pain.
56A cat or dog approaches another,
57they sniff noses. They sniff asses.
58They bristle or lick. They fall
59in love as often as we do,
60as passionately. But they fall
61in love or lust with furry flesh,
62not hoop skirts or push up bras
63rib removal or liposuction.
64It is not for male or female dogs
65that poodles are clipped
66to topiary hedges.
67If only we could like each other raw.
68If only we could love ourselves
69like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
70If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
71to need what is sold us.
72Why should we want to live inside ads?
73Why should we want to scourge our softness
75Why should we punish each other with scorn
76as if to have a large ass
77were worse than being greedy or mean?
78When will women not be compelled
79to view their bodies as science projects,
80gardens to be weeded,
81dogs to be trained?
82When will a woman cease
83to be made of pain?
Copyright 1997 What Are Big Girls Made of? by Marge Piercy Alfred A. Knopf


26] Paniers: whalebone or wire frames that spread out a woman's skirt at the hips. Back to Line
74] Mondrian: Pieter Cornelis Mondrian (1872-1944), abstract painter. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
On the Issues (Spring 1966): 60.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Marge Piercy, Leapfrog Press or Knopf permissions department.</b>