In so many ways, the words we say
to ourselves in the face of sticky-note-bedecked
standing mirrors, or bathroom zoom-in zit-checkers, or car door
reflections is that beauty is a radish plucked too early, as a
microgreen, because we say to ourselves it’s healthier to
eat them in that state. I didn’t grow in the way I was
supposed to—small breasts, narrow hips, hirsute arms--
so the boys in my Grade 7 class, between their games of
bloody knuckles and scheduled AXE bodyspray applications (misogyny scented!)
would tell me I looked like a “Saquatch,” and I’d have to tell them
they were missing a letter, that they might find it later on in life.
they’d laugh and tell me I was missing a chromosome.
Perhaps we’re all missing letters in our own way, even if every gene
of ourselves minds the A and the C; abides by the T and the G. I’d like
to be a radish, now that I think of it—a fully-grown one, rosy and deliciously bulbous.
The thought of being a microgreen to this day scares me.
My arms remain downy, and my breasts are still achingly tiny, unbulbous.
Those AXE-lovers have grown into successful bankers,
data analysts, vendors, late-capitalist drones, and every time I see one’s face pop up on LinkedIn,
pink, athletic, contented, I’m transported back to my childhood bedroom,
to gaze upon my figure, the words on my mirror arranging themselves
into a declaration, a sabre, a pseudanthium
they never knew yearned to sprout.
Adele Nwankwo (they/them), 24, is a genderfluid member of the Nigerian diaspora. They are a healthcare worker by trade, but have recently taken up writing as a means of exploring the connections between identity, trauma, and humour. Their poetry is inspired and encouraged by figures like Gwendolyn Brooks, Douglas Kearney, Ocean Vuong, and Ed Roberson. They have work upcoming in several magazines.