Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women” (CUPSI 2013)


Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother
smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself, but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement
of her fork, in every crinkle in her brow as she offers
me the uneaten pieces on her plate. I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I
suggest it. I wonder what she does when I’m not there
to do so. Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each
time I return; it’s proportional. As she shrinks the space around her seems
increasingly vast. She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach
has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry,
a new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about
fruit.” It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund
stomach and I wonder if my lineage is one of women
shrinking, making space for the entrance of men into
their lives, not knowing how to fill it back up once they
leave. I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks. I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean
soup I chose for its lack of carbs. I want to tell say: we come from difference,
Jonas; you have been taught to grow out;
I have been taught to grow in; you learned from our father how to emit, how
to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your
voice every other week from shouting so much. I learned to absorb.
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters,
and I never meant to replicate her, but spend enough time sitting across from someone
and you pick up their habits. That’s why women in my family have been shrinking
for decades. We all learned it from each other, the way
each generation taught the next how to knit weaving silence in-between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching, picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly
dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom
to kitchen to bedroom again, nights I hear her creep down to eat plain
yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled,
deciding how many bites is too many, how much space she deserves to occupy. Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate
her, and I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry.”
I don’t know the capstone requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire
meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza,
a circular obsession I never wanted but inheritance is accidental,
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

100 thoughts on “Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women” (CUPSI 2013)

  1. do you really hate men so much that you wrote a poem shit talking your father and brother? I mean, I don't know them. maybe they're bad people, but come on.

  2. The food is a metaphor. What she means is how women's voices are taken away, how women are taught to keep everything inside and excuse themselves when they should be confidently unapologetic for just being themselves.

  3. cheers to the dude listening that very clearly says "whoa, that is not okay." you're right. we're starting to get that and might need a hand every once in a while from whole-hearted men like you.

  4. "You were taught to grow out, I was taught to grow in." I studied in an anthropology class once about how men and women's social behaviors are around the idea of taking up/ not talking up space. It is really an "inheritance" we never have asked for as women; I also apologize excessively and am constantly obsessed with taking up space in a room (i.e. being noticed, being too loud, inappropriate, moving too much, laughing out of turn, etc). It is psychologically ingrained.

  5. Ask and you shall receive. Her first book, "This Impossible Light" comes out next month! https://www.amazon.com/This-Impossible-Light-Lily-Myers-ebook/dp/B01LZUOACV/

  6. When she said, "I asked 5 questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word sorry!", I forgot to breathe for a moment

  7. I feel sorry for you.  I will pray for you.  Yes, you ARE ashamed, no matter how hard you try to run from it.  There is hope.  There is forgiveness.  Jesus is merciful.  Run to him.  Repent.

  8. One of the worst things as a young women is to find something that empowers you so much, to the point where you're basically crying, and then come to see other people tearing it down and labeling it as "feminist bullshit". It makes you feel like the thing that just empowered you isn't so empowering if people can find so much shit to poor on it.

  9. I just read Lily's verse novel "This Impossible Light," after having admired this poem for years. It's amazing.

  10. I saw this poem a long time ago. But I always keep coming back because it's so powerful and so relatable.

  11. crowd: Ahhh snap snapsnap oohhh snap snap snap mhmmm ahhhh snap snap snap mhhm wooo yess!!! snap snap snap
    me: SHUT THE FUCK UP

  12. I'm dating someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. When we first started dating I lost 20 pounds because of anxiety. I've always known that this is unhealthy, but I really do love him. I don't know what to do. I feel like I am wasting away.

  13. Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles
    over red wine she drinks out of a measuring glass.
    She says she doesn't deprive herself
    but I've learned to find nuances in every movement of her fork.
    In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate,
    I've realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
    I wonder what she does when I'm not there to do so.

    Maybe this is why my house feels bigger every time I return:
    It's disproportional. 
    As she shrinks, the space around her seems increasingly vast.

    She wanes while my father waxes.
    His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry
    A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenage but now my dad reports now
    is "crazy about fruit". 

    It was the same with his parents:
    As my grandmother became frail and angular, 
    her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
    and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
    making space for the entrance of men into their lives
    not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave. 
    I have been taught accommodation. 

    My brother never thinks before he speaks. 
    I have been taught to filter.
    "How can anyone have a relationship to food?" he asks, laughing
    as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
    I want to say, "We come from difference, Jonas. You have been taught to grow out; I have been taught to grow in. You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, how to roll each word off your tongue with confidence. You used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much."

    I learned to absorb.
    I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself. ]
    I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
    and I never meant to replicate her but spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits. 
    That's why women in my family have been shrinking for decades. 

    We all learned it from each other
    the way each generation taught the next how to knit, 
    weaving silence between the threads which I can still feel as walk through this ever-growing house.
    Skin itching, picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
    Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark,
    a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled
    Deciding how many bites is too many, how much spaces she deserves to occupy. 

    Watching her struggle I either mimic or hate her but I don't want to do either anymore
    but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
    I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of the started with the word sorry.
    I don't know the capstone requirements for the sociology major because I spent the whole meeting deciding if I could have another slice of pizza. 
    A circular obsession I never wanted,
    but inheritance is accidental 
    still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.

  14. from what I could make out over the audience, the poem was really good. She had a strong idea of what the poem was, illustrated it and conveyed it beautifully. Really well done! Audience put me off slightly, but not her fault 🙂

  15. Yeah well, poetry is not only about content, we have novels for that. Poetry, when rhythmically consistent, can even be stupid but have a strong effect on the audience.

  16. I just feel sorry for that poor janitor who has to mop up the floor in the morning after that entire audience pissed their pants in politically correct approval.

  17. The point of snapping your fingers is so that you don't make too much noise like you do when you're clapping. If you're fucking screaming anyway, it doesn't matter, does it?

  18. Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
    She says she doesn't deprive herself,
    but I've learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
    In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
    I've realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
    I wonder what she does when I'm not there to do so.

    Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it's proportional.
    As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
    She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she's "crazy about fruit."

    It was the same with his parents;
    as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach,
    and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
    making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
    not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

    I have been taught accommodation.
    My brother never thinks before he speaks.
    I have been taught to filter.
    "How can anyone have a relationship to food?" he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
    I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,
    you have been taught to grow out,
    I have been taught to grow in.
    You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
    I learned to absorb.
    I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
    I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters,
    and I never meant to replicate her, but
    spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits-that's why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
    We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit,
    weaving silence in between the threads
    which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
    skin itching,
    picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
    Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
    Deciding how many bites is too many.
    How much space she deserves to occupy.

    Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
    And I don't want to do either anymore,
    but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
    I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word "sorry."
    I don't know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza,
    a circular obsession I never wanted, but

    inheritance is accidental,
    still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.

  19. To everyone complaining about the audience, it’s typical to clap and mhhmmm during spoken word as a way to show support for the poet

  20. “I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of the started with the word sorry,”. This line hit me hard because if I think back I can recall many times in which I have started my questions out with the word sorry. And what she is saying is true that one does pick up habits form around them. I notice with myself that I am doing more and more of things that I watched my mother do in everyday life.

  21. "My brother never thinks before he speaks. I have been taught to filter"
    "You have been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in"

  22. This weeks piece is Shrinking Women by Lily Myers. Here is the poem:

    Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
    She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
    but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
    In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
    I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
    I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

    Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
    As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
    She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

    It was the same with his parents;
    as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach
    and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
    making space for the entrance of men into their lives
    not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

    I have been taught accommodation.
    My brother never thinks before he speaks.
    I have been taught to filter.
    “How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
    I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
    you have been taught to grow out
    I have been taught to grow in
    you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
    I learned to absorb
    I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
    I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
    and I never meant to replicate her, but
    spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

    that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
    We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
    weaving silence in between the threads
    which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
    skin itching,
    picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
    Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
    Deciding how many bites is too many
    How much space she deserves to occupy.

    Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
    And I don’t want to do either anymore
    but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
    I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
    I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
    a circular obsession I never wanted but

    inheritance is accidental
    still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

  23. I showed this video to my mother about 4 years ago. She brushed me off. She stopped teaching me how to read so my brother didn’t feel emasculated and didn’t allow me to ride a bicycle until my brother mastered it. My heart still aches because of this and for that I cut our relationship off.

  24. “Shocking quote from the poem I thought was cool,” followed by a reaction I had typed out for you to read.

  25. Wow, this is really powerful. I feel like a lot of these examples are relatable to a lot of women and girls, particularly the line "I asked 5 questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word 'sorry.'" I mean, WOW. That's deep and relatable. Good speech.

  26. My favourite line is “I asked 5 questions in genetics today and they all started with the word sorry”. I didn’t realize I do this too until watching this poem. Gotta change that bad habit.

  27. I sat and cried as I listened. This is a description of most women's lives- at least in the US. It's not just the food, it's being asked to "shrink" as a human being.

  28. Imagine the progress you could have made in overcoming your personal struggles had you not spent your time writing a poem to complain about them.

  29. Pfff feminists don't know who to blame but men. Go do something.
    Where have women been taught not to eat? In your own magazines written by other women and your anxt. to be wanted, your envy, superficiality and absurd dreams.
    You can have another piece of pizza but you have to eat proteins before that. The whole struggle is around "I wanna do what I want to even if I know im mistaken" and then turn to blame men.

  30. This poem reminds me of how my breath is irregular when I'm sharing my ideas, like they can't take up space and me take air from this world at the same time.

    I'm just getting started, check out the poem I just posted on my channel 💜

  31. This is such BS. Ask a feminist why men suicide at 3x the rate of women and they tell you because men suppress their emotions- that they do not emote and express outward. They destroy themselves from within for lack of expressing emotions. To a feminist, all of women’s problems are men’s fault. All of men’s problems are men’s fault even when the “faults” are contradictory and mutually exclusive… because logic and coherence are oppressive constructs of the white male patriarchy. The basic problem is women have rights, men have responsibilities.

  32. I had a teacher a long time ago would always play this on the projector and when I was younger and related to these I didn't want to say anything because I thought everyone would make fun of me but now I know it's ok to talk so if she's still out there thank you mrs shannon

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