Sarah McMahon
April 2020

Sarah McMahon is a poet, blogger, ultra runner, and fundraiser for the American Red Cross. She graduated from Bradley University with a Master's in English in 2016, and has since launched her blog (The Prosiest), where she writes about eating disorders, running, relationships, and gender. Her poetry explores relationships with men, with family, and with the self. Past publications include Barking SycamoresIf and Only If, and Alchemy. She self-published a book entitled Surviving 23 in 2017, which explores her experiences suffering from and overcoming an eating disorder. 

It's Chess, Darling

he said, explaining a UFC match on TV

a punch a jab an upper cut right to the face

check mate

broken jaws arms that can snap any bone

and fire in their eyes, they

just want to fuck something up

it’s chess, darling 

he said

caressing the back of my neck

leaving indents of steam

where his fingers touched me

felt agonizing want from the back of my throat 

all the way down to my feet

there are monkeys playing handball in my chest 

and I’m supposed to maintain my composure 

so he’ll never know 

that I’m hanging off the edge of a crescent moon 

too terrified to let go 

falling in love is chess, darling 

they are all rooks and we are both kings

stuck in a stalemate 

if I did admit I loved him 

I’m afraid he wouldn’t say it back

just like my dad 

who taught me that being a man 

means letting shame consume you slowly 

swallow you like quicksand 

means American anger proud and afraid 

tears are weakness goddamnit 

taught me love is giving a woman breadcrumbs

so she’s always craving more

love means settling, not keeping score out loud 

it’s a title match and I’ve got the endurance 

to swing and miss talk some real shit 

like a family history of wandering men

a woman who sunk her teeth into five of them

led her baby boy into the shallow dungeons 

of hearts not ready to hold him

taught him weak men leave their families behind

so he stayed battling anger in a winter depression

that bled all over the rest of us 

if we ignore the pain it’ll go away, right? 

like a real tough man, hey dad

the demons swirling around in your belly 

will eat you alive if you keep them inside 

they swallowed me too, until I lay in a hospital room 

with a tube in my arm, anorexia dancing 

across my body like a sore loser 

and a doctor looking down on me promising, 

if you keep this up hun, your next move is death

I won’t forfeit this game if you don’t

look shame in the eye and find a mirror

it’s chess, darling he said in my ear

smiling like a goddamn magazine cover 

glossy and perfect

trying to love me the best way he can 

which is to say not like my dad

which is to say I’m tearing apart at the seams 

these jeans don’t fit anymore 

I’m a blind woman walking straight into quicksand 

trusting his hand can keep me safe

check mate

this body wasn’t built to give up easy

hope is just a word we whisper in our sleep 

while we wait for our lives to change

I can’t wait anymore

and I’m done keeping score 

it’s just chess, my love he whispered again

and I let him

I like it cuz it's pink

cotton candy bubblegum roses and rosé 

flamingos grapefruit lollipops half-washed 

blood stains on a pale pink thong 

my lips, his lips, her lips, kisses

pink panther pink floyd pretty in pink 

Valentine’s day heart shaped declarations of 

luv u 4ever babe bmine 

I like it cuz it’s pink he said between my legs 

like a good boy kissing it licking it flicking it 

none of it felt great but I also didn’t hate it

liked the way his mouth tasted after we finished 

pink eyes pink lies the pink t-shirt I was wearing 

when he promised me I, will love you forever 

the way his mouth quivered 

the way my spine shivered 

the way I learned words don’t mean a damn thing

there’s a rare pink river dolphin in south America 

endangered by humans dumping shit in our water 

opening our mouths and closing our eyes

surprised when we see something gorgeous

surprised that anything we do could lead to our demise 

I like it cuz it’s pink I whispered in his ear

the Christmas he bought me a beryl stone necklace 

shaped like an S for my name

he thought I’d adore some narcissistic jewelry 

and I do, or I did before I threw it in the river after he left, 

stomped me out like a pink starburst wrapper 

stuck to the sole of a shoe

spit chewed and swallowed like a stork swallows fish

whole and squirming all the way down

he promised if I jumped high enough and dove into him 

I’d find a rare pink river dolphin swimming in his chest 

I like it cuz it’s red, he told me the night 

he carved out my heart and bit it

his lips turning pinkish like they always did 

when I kissed him with lipstick 

pink matter pink salt pink lemonade 

pink Valentine’s day heart shaped 

declarations of luv u 4ever babe bmine




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