Poem from Sofia Benbahmed




Once, I wore a starved body.

My subcutaneous fat dissolved and my veins were visible,

Strangling my bones like vines on a weathered tree.

The bones in my feet protruded; it hurt to walk.

My eyes were flat bulbs cloaked in their overgrown sockets,

Sluggish and devoid of hope.

I conducted like a symphony a personal Holocaust.


What I think now is that some may read this poem and envy what they think I had.

But this poem isn’t about what I had, or what starvation taught me;

This poem is about absence and lack, the fundamentals of extinction and resurrection.

This poem is about what I didn’t have, and what health gifts me today.


Today my thighs touch. My breasts are restored and sag from my chest.

My hips are thick swans,

Sturdy and strong, curved and poised.


This poem is about empowerment and embodiment; about my eyes that now display my fear and love and hope –

My stretchmarks and scars my journey.


Today I am learning to belong to myself.

To see my body not as an ornament but as an animal; my animal, helplessly dependent on me. Worthy of grace, respect, love and forgiveness.

The body, you see, separate from its owner does its best –

Maintains, despite everything, an innocence.

It does all it can to sustain itself, no matter how abused.

This poem is an apology to myself and those who love me;

About wasting no more time;

About clumsily coming back to life;

About becoming warm again;

About a soul that is thawing.


This poem is about unexpected laughter,

About movement and strength and self respect

And about advocating for myself to myself;

The moments I feel proud to feed myself

And not experience guilt.

About what a miracle survival is.

How from the ashes I rise

And how you will see in my eyes a future that was once inaccessible.

Impermanence and uncertainty and fear that highlight the extraordinary experience

Of the gift of the present.

About embracing the life I have lived and what, as a result,

I can now give to you.


Join me in this endeavor, no matter what path you have walked,

What demons you have fought.

I invite you to accept and embrace all of yourself.


I release myself from self imposed imprisonment.

I rise,

I expand and subside;

Alive, after all.

I have survived.