little brother//youngest son little brother//youngest son
swathed in sheets in the hospital bed, a skinny
silkworm of a boy
in a cocoon of restless lethargy and the
gentle murmurings of pain
which come to him even in sleep- he dreams
of agony like a quiet groping hand
which tugs on his elbow in the crowd, whispering
-do you know me?- as if he is the only one
who hears. we are quite prepared to believe
that he is the only one who feels pain
in the whole hospital; have no sorrow
or sympathy to share and cannot bear to see
these other children, all nothing
but chalkdust smears on the pillows
which offer no comfort, casting shadows
they have not earned.
a ward full of half-sketched pastel faeries with
waxen skin worn buttery; melting into purplish blooms
where quiet silken needles slide through
to leave wine stains, kiss marks, the ghosts of adulthood
promised but not delivered. -not yet-, we say,
-not yet-. when we look at our fragile
sanatorium prince lying
with a hard pea of discomfort under his mattress
an orchestrated litany of lies*
your body is a chirping crocus. [yellow] it grew
in the dark. your mother’s body an elasticated hairtie stretching
to accommodate you
snap your budding head from the depths of sultry earth.
everybody take your seats now
young whippersnappers when the mountain comes through the clouds it will
envy the dead their youth.
confused we wandered two by two
into the ark. this land is stripped clean like a chicken carcass
where no flesh will rot. uncooked corpses charred black
melodic counterpoint. nobody is responsible.
the hedgehog has failed to relax its spines in death.
erebus quietly snivelling
“i am a bear. if you stumble into these woods, bring berries for me.”
the tide crawls in...and the tide crawls out, sluicing away any proof
of sand-etched promises; no chalky outline
to remind us that there was some
body here, before.
“i don’t care what you think,
but i care that you know certain things.”
our friends walk out onto the long grey spit,
take our arms and lead us into the sea where all bones
are washed clean. we meet for the first time
over a grave where i eat an asparagus roll
like i am hiding the evidence of
an unfinished letter
having something to do with shame.
“the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.”
peering into this open casket, wanting
to throw handfuls of dirt over it until
i can’t see your face
...your struggles have made you wisewhen the counsellor tells you your struggles have made you wise...
ask her how useful the knowledge of how many punches it takes to lay you cold on the floor will be in future. ask her if the endless frost that shivers under your fragile skin is going to turn out handy, a free cooling agent in the heated heights of summer. ask her where she was every morning when you took the pills and crumpled the plastic cup pathetic in your fist. ask her about the taste of toothpaste and bile, how she felt when the dentist marked the progression of decay and solemnly warned you to cut down on sweets. ask her how it feels to keep all those suicides filed away in her desk drawer knowing that they were never ‘wise’ enough to see another way out and through. ask her about the first time she drank until she threw up for hours after she’d become sober again because a boy wouldn’t touch her, or a girl wouldn’t give her a second glance. question everything because there&
boston, with almonds in our hands.a) watching them run over the sepia
horizon line, heart muscles tired and
exultant shrieking this is it this is it this is it
and it is.
b) suddenly bereft of geography &
bursting in spumes from the arterial
route, topographical lines sounding blast
and red and faithless
fathomless despair. and the fear
c) which is your trade. the manufacture of it in the wreckage
of a pressure cooker and a backpack, sure maybe we have
all said words we couldn’t take back but this is something else
entirely. there is a difference between hurting people
and hurting people.
d) it is things like these that make me want to think about war
and about all the people who die without names. the mothers
and fathers who named their children because
they deserved more and they deserve to be more
than the empty promise of “the victims of [this name]”-
when we find out your name i promise to forget it.
e) we stand at each end of this table with open palms but only one of us car
the lights are dimbut he can still see
the mastectomy scars
when she puts his hands on her
chest and meets his eyes
as if she dares him to speak.
it does not matter
whether he can feel
a phantom weight
in the palm of his hand.
she is not less.