Umbrella’s lighter offshoot

Melissa Balmain

has been a featured poet in Light Quarterly; her poems have also appeared in The Spectator, The Chimaera, The Formalist, Measure, and Mezzo Cammin.

She is a two-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, and the proud winner of the 2009 Rubber Ducky Sonnet Award from the New England Shakespeare Festival.

She is a director of the Foundation for Light Verse.

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Oh, Bod (Recently discovered in Larkin’s archives)

I’m clothed all day and get undressed at night
Beneath the ceiling light’s relentless glare.
It advertises every bulge and blight
I’ve spent twelve hours pretending isn’t there.
Says Bun, “You’re rounder than a Jersey cow”
Making all talk impossible but how
And where and when I shall begin to diet.
My middle’s lumpy as an unmade bed
And soft as Hovis bread;
My arse is huge, it’s useless to deny it.

The mind reels: wolf down meat at every course,
While treating mashed potatoes as a crime?
Or gorge on carbohydrates like a horse,
But nothing fattier than broth with lime?
And do I want some snitcha Tess or Trevor
To check my weight each Saturday, forever?
The thought of minding every bite I chew,
Refusing pints of Guinness like a queer,
Declining an éclair,
And soon, can send me weeping to the loo.

Or shall I try a special “weight-loss aid,”
Next time the telly urges me to buy it?
A bloody “low-cal” shake or lemonade
Created to pretend we never diet;
Some specious grub that adverts keep agreeing
Is marvelously “rich” and “freeing”
Which means it’s for the rich (one bite per £),
And free of taste or smell, no fun to drink with;
Digest it and I’ll stink with
Reverberating farts like Patsy’s hound.

And so, reduced to wretched tunnel vision,
I think I’ll have a private surgeon kill
My appetite with hideous precision.  . . .
No, that can never happen: his one bill
Could swiftly snuff a whole year’s wages out.
(I can’t try diet pills, without a doubt,
For if I did, it’s obvious I would
Abuse them terribly, forget to shave,
Act twice as daft with Maeve,
And be the wanker of my neighborhood.)

Quickly I dim the light to hide my shape,
And stand before the wardrobe, squinting so
Its mirror flatters me from calf to nape.
“That 60-watt,” I say, “will have to go.”
I munch a buttered slice of coffee ring,
Paw through the wardrobe and begin to sing,
As, on a shelf near Betty’s paisley blouse,
I find my favorite pair of trou, bar none:
SansabeltI’ve won!
In these, no one can tell that I’m a house.