The fat child stands in the woman’s reflection
fingering parallel marks on thighs and belly,
pale vanes bedraggled in folds and creases
of overstretched skin.
− Did she eat too much and become graceless?
− Was she graceless so she ate too much?
It doesn’t matter which. The vanes
aren’t those of feathers, weightless strength
that can hold the air – the fat can’t fly.
The fat child plays alone by the lake
where the swans do not call her names.
She sees white water elegance
and its loss in a change of element –
a flat-footed flapping run like a fat child
struggling, then the lift
to sing in the air, heaviness dropping away
like the park and the lake
under outstretched wings.
Barbara Cumbers earned her living as an information officer in the NHS and is a former associate lecturer in geology for the Open University. She lives in London, with a husband and two cats. Her first full collection, A Gap in the Rain is due out from Indigo Dreams next month.