A Fat Sestina
I follow my friend up a curving trail, 350 pounds
weighing me down. He is no more than 120. I look up,
(always look up), to see the back of his hooded sweatshirt and twoChuck Taylor feet leading me to this Lookout Point,
a place where the view is worth cardio respiratory failure.
He says it’s an easy walk. He is known to lie.
My whole life I have lied
about my size, the extra pounds
that cling around the circle of my knees, that bunch at the neck. I failed
to tell the DMV my actual weight. But as she looked me up
and down, her pointed
smirk prompted me to say, Give or take one or two.
And when I stood on the treadmill that demanded my weight, I pressed two-
hundred twenty-eight, what I was in eighth grade, when I used to lie
down on the school’s blue mats and wait for the second hand to point
to twelve. I’d start pounding
my back onto the mat, sixty-two sit-upsin a minute. I never failed
to impress Coach Chandler, a portly man who never saw me as a fat failure.
In the mirror, I molded my stomach into two,
lifted my flab up
and let it drop. I’d lie
flat on the bed, suck in my gut, try to hide the pounds,
let the fat spread like water. That’s the point.
Fatigue steals my breath as my friend stops on the grassy trail to point
at mushrooms sprouting up trees—like clams. I fail
to notice. Nature loses its brilliance—a mossy log just an obstacle I pound
my knee on, the sweet smell of a drizzle tainted by my deep gasps of gnats. Two
spotted toads avoid my lumbering steps. Not much further, he lies.
The trail narrows and a spray-painted arrow points up
the steepest incline of the hike, up
through thick hickories I stumble and lean on. I am at the point
of collapse, surrendering to this mountain, lying
down in this mud trodden path, giving into my failing
body. I watch my friend disappear around the bend of two
cedars. My heart pounds
from my toes up to my pulsating temples. I will not stop, will not fail
to reach Lookout Point and see the gray rippling lake below. I am already there, the two
of us lying lightly on the grass, the sun melting away like a pound of butter.
Ira Sukrungruang is a first generation Thai-American born and raised in Chicago. His work has appeared in Witness, North American Review, Another Chicago Magazine, and numerous other literary journals. He is the coeditor of What Are You Looking At? The First Fat Fiction Anthology (Harvest Books 2003) and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology (Harvest Books 2005). He teaches creative writing at State University of New York Oswego, and is a 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Creative Nonfiction.