State of Stature

by Angie DeCola

We’re shorter now, don’t believe in getting taller.
We gorge ourselves on protein, a misguided attempt
to get small and stay small, get gout instead.
Holland had a growth spurt midway through the 1800s.
Mayan Indians got taller after leaving Guatemala.
They ate well in sunny Florida.
Everyone has a theory of stature, why we’re shrinking.
One man wears paste-on fingernails, taps them,
shows and tells how much larger his hands are.
He plays guitars. He stays in an inn.
He tosses his thick white locks like a television star,
like a talk-show host. He’s mildly erotic,
like the store-bought prints on his wall.
There’s a riddle here—why are we shorter now?
And the answer resides in Holland, with the flatlanders,
with their long, strong legs and their bicycles.
You tell me you’re not a pygmy.
You tell me you’re not suffering.
You ask me to measure your hands
against mine, against the fingerboard,
against the six long strings and the wooden frame,
the hollow body and the tuning keys.
Some believe it would be different if we’d go to bed
at decent hours, if we’d just eat right, live right.
Once upon a time, we dwarfed the world.
Now, we ask ourselves questions having to do
with difference, poverty, number of cows per capita,
and norms that continue to fail to rise.
Who among us will declare war on this decline?
I’m telling your, your hands are entirely too small.
We construct our own histories. We play
crush or be crushed and no one wins nicely.
When the output grows, we all grow.
Ready? Let’s get larger!
Who’s pulling whom down with whom?

Angie DeCola is a pastry chef in Durham, North Carolina. Her poems have been published in DIAGRAM, the Iowa Review, and Crazyhorse. Angie is a recipient of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband and their little black dog.