A present and enduring fat

The author, poet Shivanee Ramlochan, at Trinidad's Emperor Valley Zoo in Port of Spain, 2015. Photo courtesy Ramlochan, used with permission.

Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan's musings, On Threshing, Winnowing, and Buxoming the Body, on what it means to try to say we love all of ourselves, was first published on her blog, Novel Niche, and is republished here with her kind permission.

I carry so much more than the fact of my body with me. Here I am in 2015, at the Emperor Valley Zoo. One of my brothers, most likely, took this photograph using my phone. I remember how distinctly I was drawn to the caracara cages. I remember standing there, thinking about immeasurable loss: my family and I had just completed a circuit of the Queen’s Park Savannah as part of an annual fundraiser for the Society for Inherited And Severe Blood Disorders. I was thinking about birds and small loved ones taken too soon, of all the ways we fight, tears in our eyes, to preserve what’s already fading. “Caracara,” a poem so dear to me that it still, even after all these years, feels more wild than tame, had its birth there, and made its way into the pages of “Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting.” And yet. Oh, and yet.

When I think of that time, why must I feel the weight of my body as more than I wished to carry? Why can’t poems, not pounds, be at the open door of the memory vault?

Like many of us, medically I’ve been told that losing weight is indisputably bound up in my living a better, longer, more alive life. There’s an entire realm to pore through there, of medical intervention, self-militarizing survival as an aesthetic masquerading as care, and being deeply unhappy in my own skin for decades, diets, riots and all of it.

But I don’t want to tell you about the misery of my body today. No. I want to tell you the opposite.

Shivanee Ramlochan at the first ever reading of her poetry collection ‘Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting,’ in 2017. Photo by Marlon James, courtesy Ramlochan, used with permission.

Here, in 2017, I’m giving the first-ever public reading from “Haunting,” from a copy that’s not even officially launched yet. In this photograph, taken by Marlon James, I can remember coruscating with joy, in a space designated for my queer community, as a part of a festival I’ve worked with and devoted myself to for over a decade. And. Yet.

In my body, all I can recollect is feral joy. Why does my vision try to scrape the goldleaf from that, retroactively, til all I can see are the places I would efface myself? It’s galling. My entire life, I do not believe I have ever felt I needed to take up less room, except in the fact of my body. The fate of my body has been to be deeply othered, apart from myself even in times of the most sublime, as you see here, happiness.

I did promise you I was going to tell you about the opposite of all this. Here it is.

During a conversation not so long ago with my lover, they let slip a typo, “a present and enduring fat,” where “fact” was meant to be written instead. Without thinking, I playfully replied, “a present and enduring fat – it's me!” Their response, dear readers, was elation. In this moment, I was reminded that there are those on this earth who love me in my every molecule, including the ones that might be called extra.

I don’t know what my final form will be. Well, my Final Mortal Form is going to be a jar of bone-slivered dust, since I do not accord with burial. But the in-between? Whether I’m fated to wobble up and down a ladder of some pounds off, some pounds on for another decade, whether I become sleeker and my cheekbones press more at the promontories of my face, whether I find a way to be twice my size and thrice as healthy, in defiance of all prescriptive Western medicine: today I remember that I am present and enduring. The fat part has been par for the course for my survival, and I’m here to tell you: today, I’m fucking grateful for my fat.

I know I’m fickle, body. I know sometimes the pendulum swings and I curse you, point out every roll, every protuberance of gross anatomy. I know it’ll happen again.

But today, I say thank you to the round belly that has rolled me through and over hard times. The thickly rubbing thighs that have climbed step after step after step, hauling luggage and excess weight and determination during the loneliest trips, the hardest walks away or toward something else. The double chin that has trembled in adipose but buttressed me, present at the base of my face in so many photographs and videos reading my poems into difficult, bewildering being. The pudgy fingers that ache as they type but do it til the reality of being alive has never felt more so, more wildly so.

Thank you, body. For the presence. For the endurance. Yes, dear roundness, for the fat.

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