Last week marked twelve years since we lost my younger brother, Michael. Grieving is a confusing and arduous process which I’m at a loss to interpret or predict a lot of the time, and it can become more difficult to recognise and relate to as years go by, but still, there it is.
Here is something I wrote on the subject – its not a poem exactly and is certainly not editted into perfection, just an exploration of how it can be to miss someone.
Storm Angus, My Brother and Me
The prologue to this
is that I sat on trains all day.
Brighton to Oxford and back –
a nice meeting, poetry
and dreaming spires and all that,
a wet Saturday full of trains nonetheless.
Delays and confusion and low battery
and dashing up and across and down
sweating and cold.
Beeping and gasping.
The context is
that next week is my late brother’s birthday.
And I’m thinking on it, of course
even when I’m not thinking on it.
My skin wonders
and the tips of my fingers wonder
what and where and how he would be,
In the lead up to this,
my train was slinking finally towards the sea
and Brighton was an oil slick,
I would usually go straight home,
nine times out of ten.
I’m a home bird.
Our flat is dark and damp at night
for the mushrooms to grow
and so as not to frighten the death watch beetles.
We like it that way, my husband and I.
He sleeps earnestly,
and holds me in place
so that when sleep comes, I’m ready.
But the train was airless and bright
not soft anywhere,
and I was awake with it
and fancied the prickle of cheap white wine in the veins
and a beautiful friend, a dancefloor
our warm alive skin touching.
So I said to the barmaid
please can I have a really big glass of cheap white wine?
and I danced and counted the good feelings –
getting into the pub and out of the rain
glad to see gorgeous friends
warm husband to go home to
socially anxious but came out anyway
I concentrated on really feeling the good feelings.
Said to my brain, it’s ok
to let them sit next to the bad ones.
They’re all fine.
And about one thirty I head homeward
out into the rain.
The wind is pouring down St James Street.
clouds of leaves
whooshing around me and the other sailors
like we’re snow globe people.
And so much water
I’m wet in seconds
it has blown up my sleeves and
down the neck of my coat.
I remember how close we are to the sea,
how she could swallow us if she wanted.
I’ve got my wine coat on though
so it’s like watching it in a film.
I look right at it.
I watch it gulp and spray and rush
and feel nothing much, except awake,
and I think of the phrase
eye of the storm.
a burst of sorrow
comes spilling right out of me.
Operatic and expectorate,
it takes me by surprise. I suppose
my heart made it.
Feels like it came from there.
The storm whipped the cover off me,
and here, it turns out
is the grief
this year’s wellspring.
And there’s nothing like being the drunk girl
crying in the street
to remind yourself
that when all’s said and done
this is a seaside town full of drunks and runaways
and you’re one of them
with your sadness snapping at your heels
and a storm to call you out on it.
I ride the night bus home like a woman in a film
face all tears and mascara.
At a loss
with just 5% battery life
and my last-generation iPhone
I fumble at the screen
ask google for the last word of the evening –
Grief is a natural response to loss,
it tells me
you have to feel it.