it was 1986
and my brother had made a stereo stand
it was crap, frankly, a cry of despair
if you knew how to read such things, but i didn’t.
we just liked having a stereo stand
because of course, my sister had a stereo
she also had me, and her old pal
as room mates in the westend townhouse.
nubby brown sofa, brown nubby carpet.
i guess we had a vaccuum cleaner, but
when i couldn’t study, couldn’t write, i’d sit
and clean the carpet by hand, listening
to avalon on the stereo. bryan ferry’s fey croon
and those back up singers everybody loved then
dollette, janice, fonzi, their silk flag voices high flown
as i moved in meditation, slowly by hand smoothing
carpet, making order of chaos.
we never used the fireplace. we’d grown up
with wood heat, and loved it, but we didn’t know
how to chop wood in a city, and the idea
of buying a bundle at a gas station seemed
like rankest surrealism.
my brother would visit, from time to time
he was adrift, crippled in his back, angry
it was a careless moment, at his first real job
the man who supervised him caught a snag
the tree flew over, smashed my brother’s head
lifted him like a hideous flag, 18 feet they said he flew
when he landed, he would never be the same.
nobody knew then, about post-concussion syndromes
if i tried to analyze it, i had to shy away from diagnosing
he was turning into an asshole, obsessed with his pain.
but what was there to analyze? he’d been smashed in the head
by a tree that threw him eighteen feet and whiplashed
his lower spine, discs dislocated and rupturing. wcb declared
it must be a pre-existing condition. nobody knew about
post-concussive syndromes. but they knew about whiplash
and still, they knew more about how to stymie a young man
whose father had just died, who had been bullied out of school
gone to work, been doing his job when his supervisor
screwed up. wcb dragged him through processes
determined to determine
he had no lasting damage, despite that
from time to time, his legs would buckle, spasm wracked
despite his growing rage, and the lack of counselling
on how to deal with the constant pain, and those
spasms. he took to the bottle.
whiskey is not a good analgesic, nor good
for visions. nor good for inspiration about
what the hell to do, now that he faced a life
of limited mobility and the system meant to
protect him was doing its level best, from all
he could see, not to have his back.
he made the stereo stand in their shop, a training
project. a little something for his sister, a way
to be a man, now dad was dead.
he wasn’t proud of it, though we tried to be
as if that might help.
he died in 86.
and i carried on, walking like a concussion patient
one foot at a time; and some days,
turned on avalon, knelt myself down
and cleaned the carpet, inch by inch, by hand
like some kind of honouring ceremony.