Lexi Pelle

Ode to the Way We Move

in the inpatient eating disorder program.
Caroline G taps her foot to the tune of
pasta night. Sara takes four separate trips
to get a pair of scissors, two markers, a sheet
of paper and Scotch tape from the craft basket,
and Amanda, who signed herself in,
just admitted she’s been doing crunches
on the bathroom floor. To the rules about running
and hugging and to the times we break
them, in group, when Viv’s cousin drives
four hours from Vermont to play Uno
during visiting hours. Bicep curls in
the laundry room with bottles of bleach,
arm circles in the shower; how stopping
the secret exercise feels like bench-pressing
a sky swollen with rain. To the little blue
boombox we let sing to us before bed:
“Man! I Feel Like A Woman!,” and the hairbrush
microphone Sunita mouths Let’s go girls into.
Our small rebellion in the common room
of the locked ward—we shimmy our sweats
into slip dresses, our bodies loud as a nightclub.
Hospital bracelets, bangles we raise above our heads.
Paige, former-patient-turned-night-nurse,
feather-boas me toward her with the stethoscope
and doesn’t, for three minutes and forty-five seconds,
say anything about the liability of our heart rates.
We risk punishment for this, chug the chalky bottle
of Ensure, stay an extra week. Like the hooked
fish’s last dance against a thrash of air, we
are trying to move toward freedom.
It’s only wrong if anyone who isn’t us sees.

Lexi Pelle (she/her) was the winner of the 2022 Jack McCarthy Book prize. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, FreezeRay Poetry, Mixtape, Abandon Journal, and 3Elements Review. Her debut poetry collection, Let Go With The Lights On, is forthcoming with Write Bloody Publishing.