Self-Portrait at 23

By Cameron Chiovitti

I have to define myself by the things I know to be true. There isn’t much.
        I have 20 tattoos.
        My glasses prescription is -2.75 in each eye. Don’t ask me about what the numbers mean
        because no one ever told me.
        I take Levothyroxine/Pregabalin/Lithium/Lithium/Pregabalin/Levonorgestrel in that order
        every day. I think the meds work but I can never be sure. Am I feeling better because the
        chemicals are performing a symphony of all the basic functions I need to survive? Or
        because I am actually feeling better?
        I only know what better feels like because I haven’t carved notes on my body about how
        to better my body since August.
                It absorbed the word FAT like a promise.
                Rejected the letter M, also like a promise.

        Everyone leaves on vacation around my birthday.
        Hugs feel like a bath bomb dissolving in my heart.
        I am most productive at 1am.
        I get desperate when I’ve been doing the same thing for what feels like too long. But I
        only know this when I’m back to the bleeding.
                My body holds memorials for every drop that’s been lost.
                My scars are candles. I kept trying to find the light in the wax when I have always
                been the flame.
                My warmth ignites others’ smiles.
                All I am left with is shivering limbs.
                My body reminds me of all the sadness I know I will feel again.
                I don’t feel sad now. (I don’t, right?) Not like me at 10. Not like me at 12. Not like
                me at 15.
                I don’t know if me at 16 would be proud to see who I’ve become or disappointed
                to know she didn’t die.
                I wouldn’t be me at 23 without me at 16. She must have survived within me and
                also had her own funeral. Me at 19 tried to bury them both, then changed their
                name and pronouns instead.

        I can’t create a self-portrait of me at 23 without acknowledging every year that came
        before me. Who I hope to be in every year to come.
        I know I hope again.
        I see all my wishes in the navy sky. They don’t all need to come true.

        The real truth is I have always been vain.
        I know I am real only by proxy of this body—what I do to it, and what it in turn does to
                I bleach my hair and my scalp cheers.
                I shave the coarseness down to its roots and my lungs sigh with relief.
                I empty my stomach of the fat by not feeding it more fat. The lining tries to feed itself on what I have left.
                I dig for hope in my veins and my eyes remind me of the stars.

This will be enough hope to sustain me
as long as I let myself feast upon the universe.

Cameron Chiovitti is a nonbinary Canadian writer. They grew up in Montreal and now live in Toronto, where they are studying creative writing at OCAD University. Their poems have been published in Anti Heroin Chic, Lavender Lime Literary, and Big City Lit, among other publications; and one of their poems was exhibited at Queer Spectra’s Art Festival in 2021. Their new collection of poetry, Paint My Skin With Sweetness, is available to order online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow them on Instagram @maskofpoetry.