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by DJC 

Posted: 18 January 2006
Word Count: 155
Summary: I saw a programme last week on anorexia, and this prompted the below.

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At morning break, arms bared,
four girls compare the nights before.
All are changing. All changed.
Inhabiting a space their bodies can’t provide.

They compose weight-stories. Lie if,
by some quirk of chemistry, their
genes get it wrong. Plan ways to cheat
their system, hurry things on.

They have all the best advice, know
just what they need to keep alive
barely, understand the calorie
and what it does. Its capabilities.

Each brings their own ideal: a picture,
perhaps, torn from a magazine,
or words from a forum: a lifestyle,
not a disease. It is their choice.

They examine the future:
bodies full of something
unexplained, unexplainable.
The horror of becoming desirable.

Worlds rest on the look of an arm,
its circumference. The shape of
the space between finger and thumb.
They use one girl’s hand for equivalence.

The bell goes. They dissolve
back into classrooms. Dream
of love in feather-thin days.
Record their disappearance.

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Comments by other Members

joanie at 12:03 on 18 January 2006  Report this post
Hi Darren. I like this. It is so matter-of-fact yet so achingly sad. You have painted a very clear picture. Anyone who has had dealings with this would be touched, I'm sure. The last line is very poignant.
I like the short phrases: All are changing. All changed. It is their choice, which seem to emphasise the inevitability. I like the image of dissolving back into classrooms - exactly right - and the feather-thin days.
I would say 'Each brings her own ideal'.

Worthy of several reads.


DJC at 14:20 on 18 January 2006  Report this post
Great, Joanie - thanks. I run a girls' boarding house with my wife, so it's a subject very close to us, as we're often having to deal with weight-related issues. And you're dead right - 'her's much better than 'their' - thanks!

Jekyll&Hyde at 19:07 on 18 January 2006  Report this post

This is hauntingly written, and actually made me shiver, reading it. Powerful, yes, but a true poem in itself. Raw.

I read it twice, but couldn't bring myself to read it a third time.

Very impressive.


DJC at 06:04 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Ste - yes, it was quite hard to write. I'm really trying to be as honest as I can at the moment, so the stuff I'm tackling isn't always easy.

paul53 [for I am he] at 08:33 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
Hi Darren,
A closely observed piece with some tight phrasing. Its always hard leaving comment after Joanie who, as ever, is precise and comprehensive.
Being somewhat on the outside of this - my daughters tend towards the opposite problem of too much weight [though I realise the two extremes are linked more than most realise] - I was hoping to find some insight into the "why" of it.
Is it just skinny models, latest trends and peer pressure, or is there more, such as recoiling at the pubescent horror of turning into eye-candy for all the predators out there?

DJC at 08:59 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
Absolutely, Paul, and it is something I've been struggling with - I wanted to put in another stanza, but can't quite get it right. One of the girls on the programme said that she didn't want to grow up, so keeping a child's body was one way of doing this. I'll go back to the poem and see what I can do.

DJC at 09:09 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
Right, I've put in another stanza, just as a draft - it's kind of what you're getting at, Paul - what do you think? Does it imbalance the poem?

paul53 [for I am he] at 09:58 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
No, I think it helps round it. If poetry looks at something, it often helps if - while not providing an answer - it at least points in a likely direction for further investigation.

joanie at 10:32 on 19 January 2006  Report this post
Yes, Darren. I agree. I like the similar 'feel' to the verse: They examine the future:' and 'unexplained, unexplainable'.


EmmaD at 22:46 on 21 January 2006  Report this post
Darren, this is a very interesting angle on a difficult subject: the temptation would be to focus on the loneliness of a particular girl and her body, rather than the frightening group reinforcement. I think this works so well because it dodges all the clichés, and situates the whole thing in the wider world.

There are lots of great lines: I'm particularly taken by, 'Worlds rest on the look of an arm,' and 'They have all the best advice,'. I'm not a poet, and am not good at getting some of the things that poets have to battle with - linked sounds and rhymes and assonance and so one. Certainly there's nothing that jars for me, except perhaps: 'unexplained, unexplainable./ The horror of becoming desirable'. Both the lines are good on their own, but the end-rhyme clunks rather, in such an otherwise un-end-rhymed piece: maybe it's worse because it happens to be a feminine ending.

The only other line I'm not sure about is: 'All are changing. All changed.' At first I took it for a rather trite generalisation of the sort that you avoid successfully elsewhere even when you're making a general point. Then it occurred to me that if they were changing clothes, there'd be a nice double-meaning there, but without a little more evidence of games-kit about, I wasn't sure.

But other than that, for me this definitely works.


DJC at 07:20 on 22 January 2006  Report this post
Cheers, Emma - yes, you're right. The feminine ending isn't something I usually use, so it does jar a bit. And the 'all are changing bit' as well - I'll have a rethink.

Clairebear at 10:24 on 22 January 2006  Report this post
As somebody who used to have these kinds of troubles, I just wanted to say that I really like your observations.
This poem is really haunting and bleak and has no emotion, or at least I read it that way and this makes it perfect. It transports me back to the girls toilet at breaktime. I really like the last verse.

DJC at 13:51 on 23 January 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Claire - I think this is one of the most awful of illnesses, and the fact that there are websites out there making it seem like a lifestyle choice is just appalling. It's like finding out you have cancer and being told that smoking is okay, because dying is a cool thing to do. I know I've only really scratched the surface with this, but if I've managed to communicate a tiny fraction of what it is to be anorexic, then I'm happy.

So, when will you submit your next piece? I really liked your last.

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