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Daddy’s Little Girl

by Julie Finch

for Dr. Sarah Esselstyn Howell

She said when you’re the target
Of a raging father
You try to make yourself as small
As possible; that’s when the illness hit.

At 11, she refused all food except apples
And milk; her body caved in
Upon itself, a fury so terrifying
It left her hard angles and bones
Like a clamor of angels demanding revenge;
A self-imposed sabbatical on life, on pleasure;
An A-bomb in the middle of unhappy family land.
Her mother panicked: anorexia nervosa.

The child didn’t care, her mind buzzing
With the madness that comes from
Being truly starved
For love or attention, it didn’t matter;
Nothing did, but as the weight
Kept falling off
She looked like a cancer patient
On the way out.
The bathroom scale was like a clock
Waiting, waiting for the intravenous
Drip to build her back up.

Her mother, a kind woman, took her
To a tall, big-boned lady with enormous bug eyes
And many fancy degrees.
They talked.
They worked it out.
It took years.

Now, as her aging father shrinks in size
She brings him protein drinks for sustenance
And thinks what a funny way life has
Of forging forgiveness.
Mercy is the thing she gives to the ones once
Unequipped to give it to her,
But mostly to themselves.
Mirrors can be brutal, brutal.

Copyright © 2017 by Julie Finch

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