On the way to the airport, the clouds have all gathered like mourners
Landing into sleep deprivation and my mother’s arms.
She almost weeps at the gate
but her stiff upper lip catches her
I see it.
I know her well
the mock-tudor hotel reeks of ironic sincerity
the sheets are crisp and the airconditioner rattles like a last breath.
it has a bath that speaks of a thousand feet
and a pool that no one is allowed to swim in,
so it just sits there
everything feels sullied with someone else’s skin.
my brother and I have late night grave eyes, we move quietly
arguments pulse under our words
like respectful wolves, they prowl but know not to enter this cabin of grief.
we have been here before
we know each other well
before dawn, I wake and move quietly. the grey in the room ebbs in lighter increments.
I move slowly to the shower and change. he wakes and waits, we exchange spaces like trading cards
it’s almost an unspoken dance, this respect for each other
I realise then, when last we shared such tight quarters, well over a decade ago.
we are so old.
he could be a stranger to me and I wouldn’t know
at the house my mother hasn’t slept.
she clutches to me. our physicality a mortal reminder
it was said to me recently that children are emancipated pieces of yourself.
the noise of the car sounds like the road looks,
the same, grey flat undertone for hours
I lie in the back, awkwardly sprawled across luggage, my neck crooked but my eyes falling like broken blinds
we stop in Tirau and have oversweet chai lattes. they taste like platitudes. none of us drink coffee anymore
we’ve independently weaned ourselves off
the refiner things in life
at the mint carpet entrance of our grandparents’ home, the yodel-hello call-and-reply stretches down the stairwell to greet us
‘yoo-hoooo’ my grandma calls
‘yoo-hoooo’ my mother calls back
the kitchen is full of Wilsons. the four sisters move, carefully.
they are dancing.
but my mother is clumsy,
her twin sister has broken toes,
when my mother stands on them, everyone sees
and looks away
they are twins, though.
they’ve not talked in a decade,
but they still know each other well
my cousin Isabelle
sits in silence
in the corner.
the Wilson girls are too busy papering over an elephant to notice
like paint brushes and lunch
it’s what they do best
‘you are very quiet’
my cousin smiles
she says ‘I’ve been a bit sick lately.’
at the funeral parlour, everyone is smiling.
we are a bunch of old hats, except for my cousin
Someone tells her to go and look upon her grandfather
she says ‘I don’t want to’
her eyes are as wide as dinner plates
I am crying, but only out of a response to a sadness
that feels as detached as a third thumb
In the casket, my grandfather looks withered,
his nose has collapsed on one side
his eyes sunken into their sockets
his paintings are all around him,
in the background, Rachmaninov plays like he is in his studio, daubing canvas with oils
humming absently to himself
my grandma’s eyebrows hover around her hairline as she rests her gaze on him
she exclaims that it looks like he’s going to sit up
and say ‘gotcha’
she is heady with disbelief
I watch her move, I note her shoulders rolled in
her shuffling gait, so foreign from the stride I remember her having on the farm
tending to the alpaca, gesturing at Beau, telling us kids off
my cousin says when she went back, the farm felt small.
she told me not to bid it good bye, but to leave it honeyed in my minds-eye
they put his casket into the back of the hearse
‘good bye, old boy’ she says, resting her hand on the wood.
the winter light is harsh, casts the shadow of her curtly over the box
we follow behind it thirty steps to the crematorium
‘be good’, she says as he’s moved into the building
the walk back is lighter for everyone except her.
‘that’s exactly what I want for my funeral’ says my aunt ‘exactly’
she smiles, her teeth reflect the light
’60 years’ my grandma says
it hurts me to hear it, it feels like carrying a hillock of barbed wire
I feel her shadow, the child in me doesn’t want to
the child in me wants to hand it back
but we are all so old
at the house, we excuse ourselves quietly.
my mother is too tired for dancing
I am given the keys to start the drive home. I don’t know why me and not my brother
lord knows he would be the better choice
I drive until the lake vanishes
I drive until the mountains of mythical horror recede into grasslands
and hawks free wheel
I drive until surroundings become blurred into scarred pah hills
the scent of cattle, the ground-clouds of steam
everything becomes one
when my mother berates me for going over the speed limit,
my temper brims
I, too, am sick of dancing.
I pull over the car
and she takes over
she is a Wilson
it is what they do best
the mist, salts in the field. it lies like mustard gas; like an unspun cotton blanket; like a person resting, finally.
At dusk, there is one cloud
that takes hold of the sky;
everything becomes darker, darker greys
we look out the window in silence, observing the unadorned night sky and the haunting silhouettes of trees
we all grow tired
and the trucks glitter like deep sea creatures