New Religion

Michael Sarnowski
Michael Sarnowski

Plaster cast and painted gold, looking up
for his father, his face reluctantly aware
that this part would come. Fallen cheeks,
wide weak eyes, dirt caked lips. Emaciated
like a supermodel. Those ribs. Jutting out
to shape his empty stomach. Torn stretch
of linen skimpy around his waist. Ragged
hair hung tight. Arms pinned open
to wooden planks like a butterfly
on corkboard, though untransformed.
As a teenager, I stared at those ribs,
the thin obtuse angles of arms and legs,
contrasted him with the bloated bodies
of Civil War soldiers that swelled
in the heat. I was finding a new religion,
the worship of thin. I had found a god
I could invest in. A real power I could see
at work. My prayers used no bread, no wine.
I swallowed the painful pull of hunger
as daily gospel. A slow resurrection
set in motion. My body, Christ-like, dying,
as if it were trying to tell me that starvation
was a religion that had no savior, no saved.


  1. So powerful.
    “Arms pinned open/ to wooden planks like a butterfly/ on corkboard, though untransformed.”
    I keep trying to “pin” down my favorite words in this poem, but it is so difficult.
    Excellent job, Michael.

  2. So many powerful images. Such a muscular poem. Vivid images. Thank you, Michael.

  3. How fascinating to read a piece about the art and fasicnation of hunger from a male perspective. Reminds me very much of the Nicole Blackman poem, “Holy”. Haunting imagery.

  4. Thanks for the suggested poem, Allie. I will look it up. I agree with you. The perspective in this poem is refreshing.

  5. “Like a butterfly on a corkboard.” Fascinating and beautiful image … Love it. Eating disorder among young men is a topic that needs more coverage. Heard an amazing NPR interview about teenage depression and suicide amongst young men that touched in this. Thank you for your words.

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