Barbara Cumbers #antibullyingweek


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.

3 thoughts on “Barbara Cumbers #antibullyingweek”

  1. “The fat child plays alone by the lake
    where the swans do not call her names.”

    Poetry as documenting the human experience so we may become more humane. Thank you for this. And also for “to sing in the air…”

  2. Love the ending ‘under outstretched wings’…very graphic image…

    (My daughter used to work for beatbullying.co.uk (I think)…a charity that ran a website with private chat rooms where young people could access a counsellor about bullying issues. Gone bust now. )

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