Stop Eating My Sister

Stop Eating My Sister

I don’t remember the first time I laid eyes on you.

Looking back, you existed in more subtle clues;

an invisible presence, a lack of something nameless, a shadow,

a slowly fading light combined with increasingly pronounced bones.

A parasite, attaching to her appetite,

ensuring she never ate at the table alone.

You were little but fierce, persistent company, a nag,

like a cute puppy with separation anxiety.

Totally harmless at first sight;

we didn’t see you coming till playtime became a hard bite that broke the skin.

Was it the criticism laced in Mum’s opinion

that she might’ve carried a bit of weight back from holiday?

Was it school friends, was it a trend?

Was it society, was it from growing up in our family?

How did you get here, who invited you for tea?

If you were a beggar on the street I would not give you money,

no matter how frozen and wet and dirty,

no matter how the sorrow in your eyes still sparks my empathy

you deserve to sleep out in the cold without a home

because I know now how you prefer your clothes baggy,

your stomach empty

and your lovers skinny.

I’ll tell passers-by to keep hold of their pounds, keep on walking

to their intended destination and not to feel guilty,

not end up sectioned in hospital,

not going round and round in constricting circles

as the staff repeatedly tell her to stop exercising and sit down.

I feel like I failed her,

but at ten years old and six years her younger

I didn’t know how to stop an eating disorder

and it takes a doctor to bring back dying organs from failure.

I missed her home-cooked lasagne

as dinner time became plates hurling passed my ear,

cheesecake splattered across the wallpaper, spreading out the calories;

wasted food, wasted body, famished personality.

My childhood therapist asks me to sketch you in pencil

and I create a monster, with Mr Tickle limbs

and a giant cavity where the mouth should be,

a black hole swallowing all her energy. I draw on tiny eyes

whilst explaining how she cannot see the emaciated shape of her thighs.

I’m asked to imagine you are a person and together we’ll send you a letter –

“What would you say to this demon, Roz, if you could make this all better?”

I grip the pen and write three naive lines on the paper –

‘Dear Anorexia,

pick on someone your own size

and please stop eating my sister.’

Home Economics

Home Economics

Each week had a theme:

cheese, pasta, chocolate, cream –

an adolescent’s carbohydrate diet dream.

Sourcing the best local ingredients

from the fresh fruit and veg aisle at Safeway,

she became Gordon Ramsay whipping up a feast of mashed potato

with the perfect ratio of green beans to gravy,

rolling the shortest of shortcrust pastry

for her savoury tart recipe had to be better

than those shop bought frozen pies from Linda McCartney.

This chef’s stained apron was miles away

from the ballet-dancing teenage girl asking

“Jeeves, are there calories in toothpaste?”

Who stole the spare house key

and snuck out of school early

just to have ten minutes alone

to inhale a few rounds of toast before her Mum got home.

“Where’s the cooking you made in food tech today?”

“I accidentally left it at school,

tripped over Emma’s bag and it spilled,

had to leave it to cool,

bought the wrong flour,

the milk had gone sour and no one had spare,

the tin was too small,

it was too heavy to carry,

I burned the top of the brownies,

the sauce curdled and split…”

Whatever you say, don’t say you ate it.

Ice Cream at Jenny’s

Ice Cream at Jenny’s

Her Mum ran an old people’s home;

more used to unfussy eaters

and those that take their meals sloppy,

not like me –

the child with an aversion to anything milky.

“Who doesn’t like ice cream?

There’s children in Africa starving hungry,

I bet they’d give anything for a spoonful

of cool vanilla with strawberry sauce.

Stop being silly.

Just try some and you’ll soon be asking for more.”

But the slowly melting sight of the off white puddle

drained me cold.

I knew children were supposed to do what they’re told,

be polite when asked over for tea,

but there’d be no appeasing my tummy

if I swallowed that pasteurised catastrophe.

“We don’t eat this at home”, I quietly pleaded,

wishing Bernard’s Watch was real

so I could run for my freedom

from this feeding conundrum into the TV,

but time kept on tick-tocking

and Jenny’s Mum kept on nagging.

Oh how her smile started dropping

when she grasped there was no interrupting

my volcanic eruption of dairy destruction

from spewing its way back up.

Big Girl

Big Girl

Dear Diary,

this is probably the most excited I’ve EVER been.

Mum says it’s a big responsibility,

that only mature little ladies are allowed to walk to the shop alone.

Maybe next time I can take you too

but today I’m packing light,

in case there’s lions and tigers in the bushes

that jump out and I have to run for my life.

I don’t think there’s ever been any sightings

of big cats down Andrews Lane

but it’s better to be safe.

I’m wearing my fast trainers just in case,

and Mum said not to talk to strangers

and she’ll wait for me at home

but if I’m not back in twenty minutes

she’s going to phone the shop

and I’d rather not have another telling off.

Wish me luck, Diary, it’s time to race the clock!

Dear Diary,

I made it just in time

but I took my pocket money

and got distracted by the jars of sweets

as I was standing in line for stamps.

They have THREE different flavours of fizzy laces now,

red and blue and green,

more than I could ever eat, more sugary than I’ve ever seen.

One only costs 10p, and I had £1.50

so I asked for five of each.

You should have been there, Diary,

when the till lady said ‘you want FIFTEEN?’

I said I did, because I’m a big girl now,

and I’d done all that walking and my legs are still growing,

but don’t tell Mum, she’ll worry my teeth are rotting

and probably wouldn’t feed me tea.

I ate most of them, but hid the rest in the usual spot

behind the drawers at the back of my desk.

She never checks there when she’s mad at me.

I think sometimes she just forgets

that growing up makes me hungry.

Satsuma Smiles

Satsuma Smiles

‘I won’t eat it, it tastes yucky

and the white bits look like dead skin.

Sometimes when I bite into them

the juice gets on my clothes

and the taste makes me scrunch my face up.’ –

but as soon as each half-moon segment

is peeled to perfection, then placed

on my rainbow plastic party plate,

artistically displayed in the shape of an upturned face,

who wouldn’t want to eat a piece of happiness?

Bacon Butties for Breakfast

Bacon Butties for Breakfast

I creep downstairs, sneak past Mum’s room

where you have never slept. I don’t think Mums and Dads share a bed

and babies are delivered in wicker baskets by the milkman.

I ask for twelve, promise I will take care of them,

but this morning it’s just two pints and an orange juice carton.

You make my bacon sandwich to soothe the daily disappointment

whilst I spread the tomato ketchup around my mouth like an ointment

and grin at our little secret. I even help you clean up

before Mum comes down and you tell her I haven’t eaten.

I see you wink at me as she enters the kitchen.

You leave the house for work at 7.50am

to the sound of the porch door creaking open.

I never understand why you walk half a mile to the station

when the train tracks run right past our back garden.

Maybe grown ups aren’t fast enough to just jump on board.

Maybe they’re too chicken to take the leap into their imagination.

Maybe you’re the reason I turned vegetarian.

To The Pilot Who Didn’t Follow The Flight Plan

To The Pilot Who Didn’t Follow The Flight Plan

Too many of us grow up and forget how to play,

become lazy in settling for the mundane

Monday to Friday. We convince ourselves

to stay in the steady job, the still mildly satisfying

but faded relationship, semi-detached house, because we signed a contract,

we made a commitment, we think of the money

and material we’d lose or gain and weigh our options accordingly,

decide what’s less risky at the risk of wasting our life. Dig our heels in

till we’re all stood just the same – at the alter, in line at the lunch queue, school pick ups

in the playground, all ignoring the sound

that pounds at our guts. You’ve learned

to block it out, it’s started to learn to shut up.

I’m not saying we all need to be Peter Pan

but the boy had a point. To live true to ourselves

doesn’t mean we all remember how to fly; but I bet

you don’t even jump.

I bet you don’t even try.