Ellen Goldstein

A Ton of Flesh

inspired by the book The Town that Lost a Ton Using the Buddy System

It began with small losses:

a pound for every cookie left uneaten,

three pounds for each meal skipped,

the slow drone of flesh draining away.

They set up a network

of informers, a buddy system

to encourage them: “You take

up too much space,

no one wants you anymore.”

And so they ate only lettuce

without dressing and sipped

laxative shakes for breakfast,

spent hours on a machine

running nowhere.

Hunger became success

as they shed hips, breasts,

and thighs like old clothes

they no longer wore.

Their husbands began to look

right through them, their children

had nothing to hold anymore.

Only their buddies could want them now.

What town can afford to lose

two thousand pounds of human flesh?

Does the town grow lean like its women?

A ghost town populated by skeletons

and the empty rattle of diet soda cans.

Ellen Goldstein has had poems published in the Southern Poetry Review, The Formalist, and in pettycoatrelaxer. She is an MFA candidate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.