To Burn A Reflection

Guest Author Grace Holtzclaw  shares a poem about her personal battle with body dysmorphia and the media’s depiction of “beauty”.  Grace reached out to ForthWrite Magazine because she believes this issue facing millions of women can  no longer go undiscussed. 


To Burn A Reflection

By Grace Holtzclaw

At Dusk
I tie my shoelaces and run through my neighbourhood.
I listen to music,
The volume on so high so that I don’t hear the cars pass
But only smell their gasoline,
Burning.
So that I don’t have to think about why I’m running.
When I turn the soundtrack off,
I hear my heartbeat rise in my chest
Like dust behind a race horse
But I dont go home because
I’d rather collapse
Than have to face myself in a mirror.
I remember being overweight
Like riding a bicycle,
A part of my body.
I can confuse hollowness with hunger
And the media for my own mentality.
I remember our graduation party.
How we jumped in the swimming pool with our clothes on
And broke curfew for the first time.
I asked you what animal I reminded you of.
A pig.
My face was burning
And you mistook it for embarrassment,
But that was how it looked forgetting how to breathe.
I have learned to live off this breathlessness.
I have learned to live off watching myself disappear.
Call it normal to drop 50 pounds in a year
Mistake the growl inside my stomach for my constant state of fear.
And my friends tell me congratulations,
And my doctor tells me I’m getting better,
And I’m starting to believe them.
I see Cosmo articles that tell me it’s easier
To swallow vodka than it is
To swallow dinner,
I see billboards without a centimeter of cellulite
I see my stretch marks in the mirror, burning
Like battle scars
But I never wanted to fight this war.
I never wanted to run from the girl I used to be,
I never wanted to disappear.
91% of people are unhappy with their bodies
And we say nothing,
As if the media has not poisoned our prosperity
As if 91% of us aren’t burning.
But the people who can burn,
Can also start fires
So I wanna say something,
My body can burn,
But that doesn’t make me anything less than billboard,
My body can burn,
And I want you to hear me,
My body can burn,
But everyday I’m learning that I’m not the one
Who set it on fire.


I wrote this poem not only about my personal battle with body dysmorphia, but also about the countless people who feel wronged by the media’s definition of “beauty.” We live in a world that is consumed by the media’s opinion. As I got older, I allowed that voice to become much louder than my own thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. This poem is my attempt at joining the conversation, rather than letting the magazines silence me. I hope to ignite a sense of power within the people who don’t think they have what it takes to make a difference in our media. I want to tell them that a single voice, story, or message is enough to inspire someone else to take a stand against injustice.


Guest Author Grace Holtzclaw can be found here.

Cover image courtesy of Dove.

11 Replies to “To Burn A Reflection”

  1. Kathie Yonemura

    Your poem gave me chills, Grace. You are an incredible, inspiring, and beautiful young woman. Bravo to you for speaking up and saying all the words that women everywhere are thinking.

  2. Nancy Grossman-Samuel

    I love the authenticity of your voice. This is a magnificent dive into your very deep and beautiful heart. Much love to you Ms. Grace…

  3. Ron Burt

    I’m an old friend of your father. After reading this I can clearly imagine the pride he must feel having a daughter that expresses herself so eloquently and with such raw emotion. As the father of two daughters and one lovely granddaughter I know too well the struggle you describe here. It’s a very helpless feeling to watch them feeling this way and being helpless to do anything about it other than love them and assure them that they are perfect versions of themselves, no improvement needed. Bravo, Grace. This really resonates.

  4. Lilly

    That was moving and beautiful. Thank you for speaking out. This took my breath away. I love your work, and I love the message even more.

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