Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

A Nearly Poem About A Nearly Death

by Patrick Holloway

I’m trying to write about my brother and how he swallowed more pills
Than seconds in a minute.
I’m trying to remember how I felt when I got his text that said,
I love you, you’ll always be my little man,
I’m trying to really tap into how I would have sounded then with the thoughts of
Ambulances and coffins swelling in my mind.
But I can’t write it now without this tone of anger, even as I type I type hard and fast, but surely I was not angry then,
In that moment when I saw the message. I was working, I had just pulled a
Pint of Guinness
And I remember the man I served reminded me of Dad: checkered Jumper and
Why thank you ever so much,
I remember being happy, and then I read the message and I put the phone away and continued serving customers, did I really do that?
And then I got the bus home and I remember crying the whole way with
All those eyes on me and all the stories being made up in all those heads.
But I still can’t remember the feeling, not well, just a heaviness that was an emptiness that was all I could taste in my mouth.
Then there was a plane and there was Sarah who was already at the hospital and there
Were all those fallen faces telling us it was bad news.
Then Mum, not wailing, not over the top in her misery but broken, her face
All lines of regret, and dad with
His no-voice and forehead full of fear, and then there was William, later than the
Rest of us, he looked different too, heavier, more tanned.
He was good in that situation, as if he belonged to another family and went to a school where he took a class called: what to do when your brother tries to kill himself 101,
I think by the time William arrived I was angry, we knew Richard would survive now and I was what, disappointed?
Infuriated yes, that he snatched us from our lives and made us press pause so we could
Weep and wake on edge,
So he could reflect in us what we had all hidden so well, so that he could feel loved.
The tone is wrong I know,
The anger filters through my fingers and it has forged a little hole somewhere inside me and in that hole is a little man with a white flag
Waving it over and over, his arms as heavy as a metal bullet but he cannot be heard and the flag cannot be seen and the poem will never be written.

Added: 26.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


I found the poem very moving, and very sincere. And the first line of this poem is perfect, beautiful writing.