Tuesday, 20 March 2012

For My Brother Nigel

It's 23 years now since all our lives changed forever. One bright April day when my dear brother Nigel set off on a borrowed motorbike to return home from a game of rugby. Home to his wife and three young children. But he never made it home.

We don't know to this day just what happened. It seems that he came off his bike, was rolling properly - as motorbikers do - but his bike was bouncing along the road behind him and landed - thwack on his head.

He was, and remains, severely brain damaged. We were like twins. Just 15 months apart in age, we did everything together as kids. I looked after him - he was my little brother.

Writing found me. And this is a poem I wrote soon after. I became pregnant 6 months after his accident but couldn't cope with the pain, and didn't want a child born into pain. Also the child would have been a 15 month gap from my daughter. I was convinced he was a boy.

An image remained with me. When Nigel and I were kids we loved the cartoon Journey To The Centre Of The World. It had a skeleton of Arnie Sachnussen which pointed the way. One day, his finger raised and pointed. It reminded me of then.

I've just discovered this poem, and now feel able to share it. I'm sure it still needs work, but although I've written many versions, this is the first one.

Having an Abortion After My Brother’s Road Accident

He would have had blonde curls
and a dimple in each cheek.
And sometimes he's standing there,
a boy who reaches up a soft
boneless hand to mine.

Or, I catch the merest glimpse, as if
I am able to peek into an alternate universe
where you run across impossible soft grass.

Click. Breathe In.
Click. And Out.

Now I see you.
Tubes snake in and out of a face
so inflated it's almost comical.
For a nanosecond I think its not you.

But there was a baby curled tight as a male
seahorse loops its tail around its young;
who then floated free, to be beached too soon

from a warm ocean of promises.
You were the boy whose laughter
could have broken the hearts of fallen angels.

Click. Breathe In.
Click. And Out.

Over your bed a machine beeps and traces
lines of existence, while nurses and doctors
glide by as if on the castors of a nightmare -

Stopped, silhouetted against a remembered hill
green and dark with long shadows.
It's time to go home. C'mon, we can run home.

Together. Click. There's a hole in your throat,
a direct route to where you are hiding
torn and fragmented. Breathe.

And so I offer up my past and future,
my human sacrifice to the gods in white coats
who take the now and surgically purge my body of you.

Because you would have told daft jokes
given me joy, kicked a ball, been that boy
I never forgave for leaving - even though once,

for one brief moment his finger, your finger
raised as if by itself, as if to point the way
to The Journey to The Centre of The Earth.

Click Breathe In.
Click. And Out.

And when a palm reader says I have
three children, when I have two. Yes, it's
definitely three children - I know she means you.

Who went tumbling on a bright April day.
Jack without Jill. Oof, oh shit. Oof, oh shit.
Then splat. As if all those childhood scrapes

had foreshadowed what was to come.
Luckily he's only bumped his head
we'd joke - your scalp marred with little white

elongated oval scars, stark in your American
style crewcut. Catapaults, cardboard box boats,
bang bang you're dead. Not humpty yellow, but deep red.

Then I see your eyes big as the star child
who turned in deep space to Straus's waltz
You look up at me and take my hand.

Click. Breathe In
Click. And Out.

All the kings horses with sirens wailing
white coats, green coats, white coats, theatre clogs
white coats, green coats, white coats, theatre clogs.

As somewhere, stranded on a white sheet,
the skeleton of Arnie Sachnussen points the way.

So I kick hard in my amniotic sac
kick up to where the sun is born
As every day I breathe - I choose Life.

Deep breath in. And out.

© Rosemary Dun 2004


  1. Rosemary, what a powerful poem. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Waw a beautiful lines from heart.......!
    Salute to poetry.........!

    By : www.GooseberryBushGifts.co.uk