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 –
pick on someone your own size
and please stop eating my sister.’