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

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Girl Who Didn't Wash Her Hair

These days one has to beware posting work on one's blog else it's ineligible for competitions - but the poem here has already won a Leaf books competition and been published in their anthology Balancing Acts.

I wrote this poem whilst at an Arvon course on writing a poetry collection. One of our tutors was the marvellous Moniza Alvi. And it was there that I met David Tait (ok name dropping over ...). Not long after I arrived for our 5-day retreat I realised I'd forgotten my shampoo! Eeek! I faced two options, either ask someone if I could borrow some of their shampoo, or try not washing my hair for a week. After all, I'd heard that after a while hair cleans itself etc. etc. and I wondered whether it would grow into dreadlocks. Two days later, with greasy hair I cracked and asked a fellow student for a lend of her Herbal Essence. And I wrote this poem. Because, after all, when you're a writer everything is potential material. Ha ha.

The Girl Who Didn’t Wash Her Hair

One day, when she awoke, she gazed
at her reflection in the mirror,
could see her crimson hair cascade
as if the sun had claimed it for its own,
polished it until it glowed dark as a sun burst.

Weeks passed. Seed brought by the winds
caught in her tangles, took root, grew wildflowers:
tom thumb, cowslip, ragged robin, harebell.
They poked their way through her locks,
wound themselves like garlands on a bride’s head.

As she strode down Park Street, someone called out,
‘I love your hair. Where did you get those flowers?’

Next, dormice arrived to make their nests
up near the nape of her neck.
And bluebirds came to feed and sing
Zippedy Doo Dah on her shoulder.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Engelbert Does Eurovision

So today I had another spot on local radio Dialect - broadcast on Bristol Community Radio Sunday from 2pm. So, I decided to write a topical poem - yes, the surprise decision by the BBC to pin our Eurovision hopes on 75 year old Engelbert Humperdinck. He of the long sideburns and cheesy songs like "Quando Quando Quando"!!

So, has Paul Gambacini and his fellow band of selectors gone stark staring mad or is this a stroke of genius! Hoping to stem the tide of hatred towards the UK from the rest of Europe with some melody brought by the writers of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful". The funniest part of this was the comment by Ireland's repeat contestants John and Edward Grimes - the mighty Jedward - who said "We didn't know who he was!" "Yeah, that's right John." "So we had to look him up on Google." "He looks cool, John." "Yeah, Edward, but his name sounds like Humpty Dumpty."
I've always been struck, personally, by Engelbert's likeness to wooden puppet Virgil from Thunderbirds!

Here it is, then. My poem.


Who will come to the rescue,
Dear ole Blighty is in trouble.
All of Europe hates our singing,
and our Little Britain bubble.

It’s enough to drive past winner -
Sir Cliff Richard – to hard drink
Fear Not!
Auntie Beeb has pointed her finger
at - Englebert Humperdinck!

Yes, Engelbert, Englebert,
the hopes of GB rest on you
Oh, Engelbert, Oh Englebert
Just do better than boy band Blue!

He’s the man who brought the Tom Jones – hurrn –
to the sideburns on his face.
Like Virgil from TV’s Thunderbirds
Can he rocket to First Place?

They hope SO!

A 75 year-old Vegas crooner
call him The Hump – don’t call him The Hoff
Paul Gambacini asserts he has the swoon factor
his Euro fanbase won’t see him booed off

So Engelbert, dear Englebert
more orange than a Tango
Forget he’s a sixties Herbert
singing “Quando Quando Quando."

He kept Strawberry Fields from No 1
on the Top Of The Pops hit charts
With his mellow Last Waltz song
twanging the G-strings of randy grannys hearts.

He’s good at darts! – I made that up!
He’s largely made of cheese –
Well, he does come from Leicester
A mate of Charlton Heston, and The Bee Gees

A nation’s fate rests with menopausal women
who crave an Engelbert Humperdinck booty call
By pinning our hopes on Please Release Me
via James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”

He’s not The Hoff he’s The Hump
Has sold gazillions across the continent –
I’ve heard he’s quite a grump
Fingers crossed he’s not incontinent.

So, when he takes the floor at Azerbaijan,
with his Ronseal coloured LA-fried tan
How will this veteran fair
with his rock-hard hair-sprayed hair
against Europop spandex frockers,
and Norwegian head-banging goth rockers?

He’s our last hope against Jedward –
those prize twin Irish numpties
They can’t pronounce his name –
they say “It sounds like Humpty Dumpty’s!”

So c’mon!
There is no denying
old Hump is pretty dashing
The time is here UK,
to give them Euros a right good thrashing.

Cheer on our Engelbert of Humperdinck
a choice either brilliant, or downright queer
He could take us to the brink – he could!
He could really triumph this year!

But wait! Euros are still smarting
from David Cameron’s taunts
While he’s busy growling “veto”
They’re bringing out their null points

Smarmy Dave believes he wags the dog
but he’s a toothless bull-dog cur
Europe prepares to vote – Bog Off!

Oh well, there’s always next year!!

It’s the diamond jubilee, you know … oh and then there’s the Olympics – I hear they’ve booked Blur …