Perseus by K.M. Alleena

He tells me
in the middle of the night
that he hates his body.
That he arrives home
at one A.M.
from the gym
a sodden wreck
because he was trying
to rid himself
of stretch marks.
Hate hisses from his lips
like a new Medusa,
and when he shifts his gaze to me,
paralysis sets in.

He tells me
in the middle of the night
that it’s nobody’s choice
but his own—
that he is immune
to the whispers
of perfection
pouring down from billboards—
Hercules, Achilles,
all sculpted
and manipulated
like marble—
and yet
he uses the word hate
like a blade
to slice off parts of himself
that do not fit the ideal.

He tells me
in the middle of the night
that he is no hero,
that heroes do not worry
about adipose tissue,
about being less than,
about their weight at all.
I tell him
heroes worry
if they are strong enough,
if they are brave enough,
and that the best ones
all have scars.
In his eyes,
I keep seeing him presenting me
with a gift
of a bathroom scale
like some kind of charity,
like erasing all imperfection
is heroic,
like if he can hate himself
into a new body,
so can I.
I fear that he will never lift me,
never sweep me off my feet
just to kiss me—
I fear that somehow,
this makes all the difference.
I am no sibyl,
but I foresee Cetus
rising from the waves
I thought I had calmed,
because his idea of beauty
chains me to a cliff
like fodder for this monster.

He tells me
in the middle of the night
that he could never do that,
because I am beautiful,
because he loves the curve
of my stomach,
the weight
that defies gravity
with the arch of my back.
He parrots
the compliments
I have always given him.
I whisper
that I am not Andromeda,
and he is not Perseus,
and we are not held
to the same standard.

I wonder
when the day will come
that he will leave me
because I do not need saving.

I wonder
when the day will come
that he realizes
he’s the one bound by chains.


K.M. Alleena is a Creative Writing Major at SUNY Oswego and has Anthropology and Native American Studies as her minors. She tends to write poetry while singing in the shower, and fiction whenever other homework is due the next morning. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys playing old video games and talking to parrots, often simultaneously. She has been published in her campus literary journal, the Great Lake Review, and was also a winner of Miracle Magazine’s Poetry Competition 2013 and Speak Up and Slam! Spoken Word Poetry Competition 2014. Follow her blog, Words that Stay, or on twitter, @KM_Alleena.