Criminally Fragile

She writes down all the answers but she doesn’t raise her hand.

She bites her lip to keep her mouth from moving.

She never stays behind to ask a question after class:

she comes and goes and sits there, just achieving,


pushing up the school’s league table ranking,

never acting out or showing signs of EBD.

Her Belsen ribs, her jutting hipbones, are the things you’ll never see.

Her baggy jumper hides the fact she’s starving.


Long sleeves conceal the calendar of pain marked on her arms,

the scars in laddered red and pink and white,

and so you kid yourself good girls like her will never come to harm.

You never see her on the streets at night


because she knows to shun the streetlights and the places people gather.

She knows the paths that she can safely walk,

where girls won’t glare, boys won’t see her as sport,

whose emptiness reflects the wound inside her,


the rift between her body and the things she wants to feel,

the dawning knowledge that she cannot do enough:

that no matter how much weight she drops, she’ll never be a girl;

that she’s criminally fragile in a world that wants her tough.

◄ Alarm Clock Briton

The Ballad of Private Manning ►


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Nick Coleman

Thu 22nd Dec 2011 23:22

Moving piece. God help teenagers, wouldn't want to be one again.

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Mon 21st Mar 2011 23:34

I think we forget too easily the years of adolescence and the pain some go through in finding a straightened path - it would be wrong I think to choose a favourite line as all gel beautifully together - well done

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Elaine Booth

Mon 21st Mar 2011 22:26

Appreciate that you have written this poem, Adam. Lines like "the rift between her body and the things she wants to feel" tell me that you know what you are talking about. Just a small question: would people generally get "EBD"? Very perceptive poem with strong images.

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Petrova Fairhurst

Mon 21st Mar 2011 17:59

Poignant piece Adam, sparks remembrance in me of my painful teenage years but for different reasons which never-the-less allow this poem to resonate strongly, thank you, I feel seen!

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