Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2009

Blood Ties

by Terri Metcalfe

That day on the fell, after my legs had long pedalled out
And only the promise of one more hill kept me pub-bound,
I learned we were finally alike,
Five miles up, and so much air but not enough to breathe,
When you told me to look at the view, gasping with exhilaration,
My pulse simulating a computer graphic and take on the hail though it battered like gunfire,
I knew we shared the same blood,
Not just the same eyes, but how we see with them too.
Did you know it had been a long time
Since I had felt anything but life-walking,
Sleep caught in the corners of my eyes and making murky senses.
How I'd tiptoed suspiciously along the path-work of life,
Let alone biked with abandon, was some mystery.
But here we were and it's all around me.
When I fell you laughed because so did I.
I knew the bruises would fascinate me for days: There now, I'd felt something.
Five miles down, you force-fed me Jaffa cakes
When I collapsed on the kitchen floor.
The sugar rush took me back then.
Let's see, I was eight, so you about 14: the joker years.
You told me the splinter that had made a new home as a squatter in my finger,
Would travel straight to my heart and burst it.
You must have seen the fear, through my pretence;
You hunted down the would-be killer and evicted him with the pincers of human life.
At 18 you married.
We'd already drifted apart, and this set the dividing wedge for the next ten years.
I didn't understand your need for anything else,
You'd outgrown mine for nothing more.
She said I had a sister now, and I was dutiful wearing peach and satin.
We shared cherry brandy
But the sharpness of it only made me wonder how I'd been replaced so easily.
Still she bore you my two nephews and they could be you and me again.
When the other one cut the ties,
The ties that had stretched threateningly since another promise,
(For that day I wore a hideous peasant number - all meringue and fat ankles
Chosen I thought, to enhance the incipient slump of teenage insecurity,
And no sisterhood was mentioned)
When he finally severed the artery of his birthright and we saw him stitch it up and turn away from us,
A silent pact was made: I felt eight again, but you were no longer the joker in the pack.
I was surprised to see you as the grown man. We both knew our family roles:
You and I are the main vein, the string that must hold it all together.
I'll wrap my arms around like baler twine and you'll ensure that I don't pull too tightly.

Added: 09.04.2009