Self-portrait of the writer

Self-portrait of the writer

by Charley Barnes

Naked, I stand in front of my floor to ceiling mirror. There is a chair wedged beneath the handle of my bedroom door, so I know that we won’t be disturbed.

In red lipstick, I write ‘Bingo wing’ along the inside of my outstretched arm’s reflection. I follow the line of too-obvious veins across my chest, up to my clavicles, and I use this as a guide to write ‘Not obvious enough’ along both collar bones. Around each breast I draw a bright red circle and sketch ‘Too saggy now’ beneath them, along my sternum; I’ve heard that this is where all the girls are getting their tattoos now.

Edging closer to my stomach – smaller than it was but stretched beyond repair – with my lipstick I outline old stretchmarks until lines dance across my belly, as though my skin has been licked by thin flames. In a smaller font I add a collage of insults – ‘fat’, ‘chubby’, ‘squishy’ – until my abdomen is a mass of words. I move down to my legs…

When the work is finished I put my clothes back on, turn on the overhead light, and read everything that I have said about myself, borrowed from mouths of strangers. I’ve re-moulded their insults into body-hate and I’ll sit with this version of myself for hours before I finally leave to find the makeup wipes.


C.S. Barnes is a Worcester based author and poet who has recently finished her Doctorate degree in Creative Writing, and now spends her days wondering what to do with it. Her debut prose collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017 by Black Pear Press, and her debut poetry pamphlet, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, is forthcoming with V. Press (July 2018).

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