I am King
I eat the strawberry Pop-Tart in the driver’s seat of my car. The one with frosting and little flecks of sharp sprinkles that slice the roof of my mouth. I will use the carbs for a pump.
I feel my thighs quake and ripple through my army green leggings, check the silhouette of my ass in the reflective glass as I walk through the lobby of the rec center. I have always had girth but now it is intentional. A glimmer of afternoon sun slices through a high-hung window, catches me in the retina and for a moment I feel like an android or perhaps something bionic. I imagine that I am part machine.
I hike the slipping waistband up over my fleshy haunch, cover iridescent gashes on my left hip where my belly once swelled to hold my baby and the skin stretched too fast. The signs of life, of new life, but a decade ago. The divots of skin prove the possibility, power once borne from this body. I stumble, a subtle limp where the muscles in my spine pull my pelvis into a rotation, the scoliosis of middle age that tips the plates on the bar. I am in charge of it, though. The strength I fortify, now. I build myself in the more perfect image. I am not simply a tool of reproduction, an artifact of female youth, yet aging and decrepit. The scars that sear my uterus shut bear no limitation to my force of will. I am not done.
The sugar hits just as the air conditioner slams me with frigid, blessed air. Cross the threshold. Prickles in my fingers. I drive the carbs to my heart by pumping my legs rhythmically at the leg press machine, the squat rack. Nicki Minaj spits raps and the televisions reflect in meta, in meta, in meta, in mirrors, infinitum– they all project Fox News.
Tucker Carlson reports once again. The American Dream is in danger. Our children are in danger. Another school shooting I can do nothing about. It’s the Fentanyl. It’s the black people. It’s the working mothers. Fuck Fox News. I use the rage.
Deadlifts, walking lunges, sumo squats, hip thrusts, hyperextensions, monster walks. Kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells– they all hit the floor and I pound my chest. In this space, I have Power. I make Power. I am Power. I pull sweet, pink drink between my teeth. Hiss to acknowledge the burn like it is some anesthetizing elixir earned in battle. I am not done here. I will finish when I have moved thousands of pounds of plates. When I know I have become stronger for it. Warmth from my depths roils to the surface, skin flushed, red. Song changes, System of a Down. I feel it. Hair standing on end. Here, I am not in danger. Here, I am the danger.
And in light of that, I will keep coming back. Today and tomorrow and the day after, I will throw iron. I will propel heavy things through the air. I will hurt myself. Purse my lips, cinch the sharp angles of my jaw till the muscles under the skin bubble and nerves in my head short circuit. I will allow myself to look as angry as I never dare to feel. I feel it. Helpless to stop it. I will hurt myself before you can. I will force the world to move around the wide width of my frame– the body I have molded into granite, immovable perfection. Try to move me. You’ll lose. Helpless to stop it. I will not quit. I will hurt myself. Helpless to stop it.
The world does not change for the better. A baby cut straight out of my guts, glorious and gory, thrust into the best country in the world, the violence of America. The love of a mother, not enough, you let them shoot it up. And I am powerless to stop it, but here– here, I bolster the machine of my body.
Dayna Copeland writes experimental and narrative non-fiction from the perspective of a person stuck somewhere between poverty and privilege. Dayna seeks to offer a window into the humanity of the female experience beyond the pursuit of partnership or child-bearing. An Alum of the Tin House Summer Workshop in 2022 and a graduate of writing programs at Yale and Florida State University, she writes about the woman's pursuit of legacy, purpose, honor, and spirituality. She spent the last year caring for her son with cancer, editing for Identity Theory Magazine, and writing her memoir. She also teaches elementary art. Twitter: @DaynaECopeland Instagram: @DaynaCopeland