Poetry: “A Body is a Body is Anybody” by Katie Mihalek

Katie Mihalek expertly evokes a power dynamic that feels all too familiar for many young girls when she writes: “Smile when they tell you / you are cute, not beautiful.” Her poem, “A Body is a Body is Anybody,” explores the various ways that young women learn about desire and its imbalances, and the coming-of-age tale she weaves is tightly wound around natural processes, nature and the life cycle of plants, using extended metaphors to show readers how growth occurs—and how growth can go wrong. There’s hope in this poem, maybe between the lines. A self-awareness that feels as if it’s developing. Mihalek’s power is in her ability to change and adapt quickly to new tones and landscapes; it’s these quick changes that make this poem so powerful, arresting, smart and brand new.

A Body is a Body is Anybody 

Ask when, if ever, you will
become a woman.
Grow a tree branch, and break
off the buds. Build layers under
shell, feel them move to the edge.
Learn how to pleasure yourself,
come into your body, hate your
body, make jokes on hating your
body. Smile when they tell you
you are cute, not beautiful.
Laugh when they call you
beautiful. Buy a lot of dirt, pack
it over the plants, kill flies that crawl
on leaves, leave them to burrow.
Carry a bush from city to city.
Watch the buds push out
their petals, drop away – you’re
still there. Come out of your body;
look in its eyes and try not to run,
say you want to stay. Say you want
to just be, sit in that silence.
Stare at the sunset: it’s cold in the fall.
You love it, how the leaves burst out
in color, before they leave their stems.

Katie Mihalek

Katie Mihalek is a writer living in Somerville, MA. She has earned a M.S. in Medical Sciences from Boston University and is an MFA Candidate at Emerson College in Creative Writing. She has received support from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and the Southampton Writers Conference, and has served as the Editor-in-Chief for Redivider. Her work can be found in Sheila-Na-Gig, Spectrum, Mistake House Magazine, Beyond Words, and others. Her chapbook, Aurora Uteralis, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2024.

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