by Jennifer Lagier

At thirty, my husband
demanded I look and act
as if I was sixteen.
It was like forcing my foot
into a shoe three sizes too small:
cramming myself into a life
that no longer fit.

When we separated,
guilt made me report for duty
in response to his
once a week call.
He’d leave fifty dollars
on the night stand
next to his bed,
tell me I’d be
so much happier,
probably still married,
if I just didn’t think.

After, I would
pump iron for hours,
run seven cross country miles,
shower and scrub myself raw.
I pared away feminine softness,
built muscles of steel,
became invulnerable and invincible,
made myself hard.

SOURCE: Previously published in The Potomac

PHOTO: The author in 1983.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was 30 when I divorced my first husband. I walked away with the clothes on my back, a typewriter, and a photograph of my creative writing instructor. During that time, I was isolated, for a time, homeless, ostracized by family and friends. A kind landlady rented me a small apartment despite my lack of furniture and belongings. One of my neighbors introduced me to the local gym where the guy who ran it allowed me to work out. Every day, I ran seven miles before work, then worked out at the gym for two hours a night.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry and in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor. Jennifer is a member of the Italian American Writers Association and Rockford Writers Guild. She co-edits the Homestead Review and maintains websites for Ping Pong: A Literary Journal of the Henry Miller Library, The Monterey Poetry Review, and She also helps coordinate the Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium’s Second Sunday Reading Series. Visit her website at