Three Poems by Genevieve Creedon



Have you ever wanted to be ideal?
Radio murmurings extol the virtues
of plastic hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts
alongside strip malls and Costcos 
that stretch for miles on the I-95 corridor. 
Get your bikini body today! 
I still remember the neighbor 
three doors down from where I grew up:
the face-lifted bruises like smeared
plums too patchy to be makeup 
when we trick-or-treated that year.
When did our bodies become 
such forms of injurious art?
Call now—and mention this ad for a 10% discount!
My mother told us young that 
you can always tell when someone’s had 
a face lift or a boob job. You can always
tell when something isn’t real.


In the right light, sometimes the skin
on my stomach looks like plastic 
when I lie in the bathtub at night, 
tracing the stretch marks that run 
down my rib cage like pink tears 
dripping from my breasts.
I can’t remember a time before 
that plastic shine on my skin. 
It must have existed, if only 
in the family photographs
pinned on the walls of my childhood
like evidence in an investigation. 
What went wrong? When did it go wrong?
Who was to blame?
First there were doctors, then nutritionists,
child psychologists, exercises specialists,
Weight Watchers, and I learned that the 
contours of the flesh can diminish,
but skin never forgets where it’s been. 
How many children do you have? 
a massage therapist asked me once 
with such confidence I almost wanted 
to lie: I could have said nine 
instead of none; she might 
not have been more stunned. 


In college, I read feminist theory
that saw power in plasticity,
agency in cosmetic surgery.
I learned to unravel the simplicity
of inherited judgment
and grapple with the knots 
the real and the fake made
in their endless intertwining. 
I studied images of the imperfect
amid waves of fat positivity,
disability studies, and anti-
normative movements. 
Beauty itself was plastic.
I traced the lines on my palm,
the tickle between pages 
of reading and notes. 
I’ve always liked my hands.


I check my dogs’ skin several times
a day now—for ticks, warts, 
potentially cancerous growths. 
The one has the lightest blue skin,
the other has skin the pink of early dusk.
Sometimes, they watch my hands
at work, sometimes they sniff
or lick a suspicious spot,
even if there’s nothing there.
The softness of their flesh
always surprises me,
even ten years later:
there is nothing 
so unlike plastic, nothing 
so plainly perfect.  

Fire & Ash

There is a constant vocabulary
of dandelions: the lion-toothed

tempo of petals curling into air and carried 
across a field, a half-conscious body 

bristling beneath grey fluttering 
wings, helicopter seeds scattering

so many letters across the sky, the earth, 
our uncomprehending eyes. 

The flaming heads catch me over and over,
and all I can think to say is come here, I want

to touch you
—before the night turns, before the fire 
dies, and all that is left is sifting ash, falling 

through my fingers like sand… Come here,
so I can whisper the smell of fire, 

the taste of ash: a bald flower, bud expended 
in a warmth so bright it sings. 

Cooking for Dogs

Brown rice, potatoes,
rolled oats, or, in a pinch, 
Cheerios, tortillas, unused pizza crust.

Chopped green beans,
blended cucumbers,
sliced celery. 

Ground pork, ground beef,
boiled eggs, chicken livers, 
gizzards, and sometimes hearts.

The dogs wait, perched 
on the scent of meat in the air.
Drool dribbles to the parquet floor. 

The pointer licks the stove,
as if to thank it in advance,
his tongue smudging clean glass. 

The water dog lies down, front paws extended,
panting in the stove’s heat
and gulping the blending aromas. 

My hands grip wooden spoons that churn the meat, 
three pounds per batch, three batches per week,
plus powdered bone meal, lead-free, guaranteed.

The meat sizzles a browned pink,  
and when I turn the burners off, the dogs 
paw their steel bowls that clang like bells.

Genevieve Creedon is a poet, scholar, and non-fiction writer. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine and her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared in About Place, Configurations, and Narrative Northeast. 

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