Categories
Poetry

Disintegrate By Wendy Thompson Taiwo

Disintegrate | By Wendy Thompson Taiwo

First the legs will go, then the hearing.

_____

I’m not sure who needs to hear this, you announce 
loudly to no one in particular and everyone in the 
room, but getting old really sucks.

_____

At 38, your stomach began to bulge and droop after 
your third C-section. You ignored your mother’s 
advice to exercise after giving birth likening it to 
the fit religion of hyperactive ponytail yoga 
moms. But then your breasts shriveled to an A 
cup and your body began to sag
like an old couch
like an abandoned truck.

_____

Of course I think you’re still attractive, your 
husband says, his mouth moving like he’s
chewing leftovers
charred brisket
cardboard.

He’ll probably leave, you tell yourself angrily and 
begin wearing house dresses outdoors, 
braless.

_____

Was that mole there two months ago?
Why does it burn 
in your chest
in your throat
in your labia
in your heart
every time you _____?

_____

When someone calls you from the other room:
Do I want eat what with the leftover fish?

You saw whose cousin at Costco?

Why did I leave what running?

Go ask your dad what he said, goddamn 
mumbling ass.

_____

For a long time, all through your forties, you 
insisted that it was other people. 

It was young people 
who were being prioritized in a society 
drunk off their youth while middle-age people like 
you were becoming obsolete. 

It was the city 
attracting too many techies and gentrifiers who 
were over-saturating your beloved downtown 
haunts and sanitizing the sketchy streets where you \
and your girlfriends got your first citation for driving 
buzzed from a tall, dark, and handsome officer 
who gave you his private number 
J Scott (602) 537-XXXX call me

It was this new wave of medical students turned 
feckless doctors too scared of a lawsuit to actually 
diagnose pain, leaving you with a non-answer to 
your, What’s wrong with me? or a, We’ll follow up 
with you in a few weeks, 
after all those tests.

_____

Bitch, we’re old, you say to your friend over a 
glass of wine and laugh. And like in a commercial, 
she turns to you and says, No way, bitch! The 
forties are the new twenties. 
You narrow your eyes.

But then the skin begins to thicken and your odor 
changes and the discharge becomes normal and 
you break in so many places while your doctor 
keeps telling you, It’s normal. 

That area of pain
That creaking sound
That brown spot
That fleshy sore
That dry patch
That blurry effect
is normal.

It’s supposed to fall off, 
fall out,
tense up, 
curl back, 
heal rough that way.
Call and make an appointment if anything changes.

_____

These days, hiking feels like dragging your 
bagged body behind you while the trailhead looks 
as wild, healthy, and abundant as ever. Each bend 
in the road, your hips and ankles click and rotate 
like a child’s model robot. On the way back to the 
car, your ankles swell up and you can’t bend over 
to tie your shoelaces that are always coming 
undone. So for the rest of the week, you resort to 
wearing sandals without socks until the skin on 
your feet begin to chafe.

_____

You stop shaving.

_____

Your saving grace is that you still haven’t gotten 
gray hairs yet, your friend tells you, her own 
baby face framed by wisps of dark clouds, a pale 
sky that looks like rain. But you also still have 
your sense of sight and it disappoints you to have 
to look at yourself every day when being alive 
and getting into your car to drive to work both 
ways in traffic is already a kind of afterlife:
interstate is to stasis
as intubation is to interred.

_____

In your fifties, you know you won’t be able to 
retire in ten years because your grown kids still 
call you for money despite graduating from law 
and business school and marrying into 
upper-middle-class suburban life.
Los Altos. Blackhawk.

You feel like the thread has been pulled at your 
good edges and all the stuffing is billowing out. 
Like I’m just all over the place, you say and your 
coworkers nod thinking that this is just you 
multitasking during a fiscal budget crisis. 
But Tim in HR who is always inappropriate, 
knows there’s something up. Why else would he 
tell you, You still look good for your age when 
you go to his office to return your benefits 
form? And in that moment, you wished you could 
follow him to his Volvo after work and sit on his 
face just so you can call his wife and tell her he’s 
cheating.

(That shade of lipstick she will eventually find 
on his shirt is called Nude Fatale.)

_____

Your physician still can’t tell you why your feet are 
always cold while the rest of you burns white hot.
So hot that your best friend has to wear two 
sweaters while riding in your car because you 
always have the AC on full blast. Yet night 
sweats keep you up at night and now your 
husband sleeps on the couch. Just for the time 
being, to give you space, he says. 

He’s probably already cheating, you tell yourself 
angrily and begin an email draft to Tim:
“For a long time, I’ve been longing for…”
“I just want to feel something, be something different to somebody…”
“I’ve never done this before and hope you understand…”
You decide to hold off on words like “sensual,” 
“discreet,” “fuck buddies,” and “lucky.”

_____

A few days later your physician messages you. It’s 
just a symptom of menopause, nothing to worry 
about, and you wonder if she means the anger or 
the cheating husband or the sweats because 
inside you feel like you’re dying.

_____

You used to enjoy dancing and trivia nights.
You used to take global cooking classes with 
your friends.
You used to keep the numbers of strangers and 
exes in your phone just for moments like this:
Hi, I know we haven’t spoken since that 
night/week/month 
in 
Istanbul
Manhattan
Luang Prabang
Chicago
D.C.
Berlin
New Orleans
but I thought we could get back in touch.
You had plans to travel the world well into your 
seventies.

Now you nurse your bruised and aching heart and 
back and hands with Netflix and DoorDash and 
wine and heated pain relief patches and icepacks.

_____

No one will ever use these words again to describe 
you: 
dewy-eyed, cute, kissable, artsy, fiery, delicate, 
sweet, adorable, bubbly, intoxicating, athletic, feisty, 
skinny, young.

_____

You no longer remember your first love or what 
you had for dinner last night. And I’ll probably 
die tomorrow, you tell yourself angrily despite 
data saying your husband will likely go first. But 
damn this earth and all upon it if you don’t get to 
taste the last few drops and enjoy the good life first.

About the Author:

Wendy Thompson Taiwo is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at San José State University. Her poetry has most recently appeared in the SantaFe Writer’s Project, Rappahannock Review, Jet Fuel Review, Waccamaw Journal, Hey, I’m Alive, and Typehouse. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming collection Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Progressive Illusion.