archives, poetry

Mango Woman. {poetry}


Regrets, I’ve had a few. Though they may be too few to mention, one has been haunting me lately. Flitting at the periphery of all I do. A wasted youth.

A youth spent wasted. I regret not loving myself when I was young and unsure. I regret treating my young body as little garbage chute. I could not put enough crap down there. Cigarettes, bad food, wine, vodka, Ecstasy. I would slug or snort anything to make me feel tall in my skin. I put myself in so many dangerous situations, and so with the regret also comes gratitude. So much gratitude. What kept me safe?

I will never know. Dumb luck? A guardian angel? I polluted my body with toxins, and I polluted my soul with shame, but I was always, somehow, miraculously safe.

These days, sober, wiser, and full of forgiveness, I make room for the regret. I had a magnificent healthy body, and I wasted it by my sheer inability to appreciate it. I have learnt from the little wild creature that I was. I embrace my whole body and self now, in all its ripening glory. I make room for the lines and the little sagging pockets of skin. Regret becomes a teacher, and I love my whole ageing glorious self.

Mango Woman

The skin of my body is ripening
a piece of fruit that needs eating
the sweet rot side of ripe
I marvel at my body
what it has endured
when I think of what I tipped in it
when I was a small lovely garbage chute
I am amazed I don’t look one hundred years old

My mind was always trying to flee itself
I helped it along
little white pills, love-heart stamped
I fled and didn’t look back
anything to get me out of there
I guzzled wine and popped pills
I danced and kissed strangers
but I never went in to my mind alone
These days my mind is tethered
in my more luminous moments
I can pull up a chair and watch it
You can always see the stage tricks
if you get close enough
some days I listen to its nonsense
but then I remember to breathe
deep from the belly, follow the breath
I come back and tell it who is boss

I want to get that young milky body
those plump kissing lips
and stick this mind on that package
that will show them what’s what
we all want that, I guess
but oh, imagine it
stomping down the street
in all my op-shop glory
with no terror of myself
and no need for a bra
words would fly out of my mouth
like bright little birds
because I would not be worried
about the shapes they make
youth and wisdom, like bitter divorcees
never in the same room

Here I am
sweet ripe mango woman
I will attain more wisdom
as my flesh puckers to my stone
hot wrinkly custard skin
brown from the sun
I will set my soul out to fly
rise above the tyranny of ageing
I will stretch and floss
I will never inject poison into my face
to paralyze it into appearing young
I will let the grey hairs sail from my scalp
like adventure-lusting navigators
I will always smile for photographs
even though the lines around my eyes
like to gather together for a little party
when I smile like that

There is nothing for the regret
of polluting my sweet young body
with shame and wine
or the fact that I recognized my beauty
as it tacked left and disappeared
but I will not regret this age
or the lines that mark the passage
there is a new one now
a thick axe-like split on my forehead
I said, “Oh, you are here. welcome, I guess.”
like a gracious dinner-party host
who suddenly finds her numbers doubled
I smile with my crinkly smiling lines
and pad the meal out

I could take every young face
between my big veined hands
and say, “love you, bright young thing.
Love every inch of your glorious self.”
but they would not listen
some things have to be lived
to truly be understood
one day they will look at themselves
in a very old photograph
in very awful fashion
and they will say, “Oh, I was gorgeous.
I had no idea.”


Bell Harding is a Rumi-loving painter, late bloomer, and poet from Australia. Her home is a vintage caravan called Lou Lou, which likes to roam and is currently plonked on a beach in the Northwest. Bell has a degree in fine art, and loves to paint barefoot in the dirt. She seeks beauty, wisdom and adventure in the raw scraped-back landscape, preferring the edges of the continent and avoiding winter. Bell loves to paint, cook plant-based food, and write pretty poems with sharp little teeth. You could contact her via Instagram.


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