It’s one of my fears, anorexia. One of the things I fear for my daughter as she enters teenage-dom. Fortunately, she has a healthy relationship with food: she likes it. And she has a fast metabolism and plays a lot of sport. I know how quickly things can change and the day she refuses cake I shall worry.
I noticed it that summer term.
There was a warm spell and we opened the classroom windows to let in
whispers of grassed air from the playing fields.
Old leaded glass panes held by red sandstone mullions.
We took off our sweaters
and I saw them,
speared shoulder blades sprouting like wings through your shirt
and your neck sparrow-like and snappable,
your head held up by thin bone and sinew.
Always at the front,
your pin-thin legs coiled one round the other under the desk,
hair curled behind your left ear
always gold-glossed like sun on a wheat field.
Writing. And writing.
And always right.
Others thought you odd but
we were friends.
I knew your liking for nice things:
for poetry and words and the smell of libraries and good perfume.
And then the swan’s down cheeks and avoiding games.
And the blue mottled skin on the backs of your hands.
And the shape of your white bone skull through near-translucent skin.
I didn’t know how to help but
I wrote to you in that drab room,
letters full of gossip.
To make things normal.
They wouldn’t let you wash your hair.
Food then shampoo, they said.
But you couldn’t eat what they wanted you to eat
So your hair became moused and dull and thin.
It was months before you came back.