They say the loss of a twin is akin to a ghost limb, an itch never scratched; a sore never healed. David is not sure. He is visiting his mother with Ellen in tow, to ease the tension. The house is a pristine museum of the young boys’ childhood: sickly– sweet framed photos of Michael Alexander Smith line the walls, the dressers, the fridge. Each frame holds his full name’s inscription as though to brand it in the visitor’s memory. David’s wedding photos are squeezed in between the dresser and the hall table, precariously close to the edge. To his mother, Michael is not a ghost limb to be ignored, but a living, breathing child. The table is always set for Michael. His bed is washed and re-made every week.
“Tea, Ellen? David?” “Judith, let me.” Ellen gently takes the teapot from her shaking hands and guides her to a chair. “Are you wearing a new perfume? No? Well lucky you, you smell gorgeous without. Now, you and David catch up and I’ll put the kettle on.” “Oh, she is good.” David smiles weakly back at his mother. The book is in his bag, burning through the leather. “I’ve got something to tell you, Mum.” Instantly, milky eyes uncloud and widen. “Michael,” she croaks, hoarse with hope. “Yes. It’s about Michael.” Judith starts–this is not how this conversation goes. She feels as though she could vomit and cry simultaneously. When David places a book on the table, she knows–words will not bring her son back. “I won’t read it.” “Michael wrote this, Mum. This is about him, what happened-” “Where is my son?” David looks away. Judith shrinks. A light dims in the eyes. “I won’t read it,” she cries. “My baby boy. I can’t, I won’t.” Ellen edges in, setting the tea tray down. She hovers. “I believe he was happy, Mum.” Judith sways, eyes shut, quivering. When they reopen, her body is still. “Leave me be, now. Both of you.” Ellen tries a hug–“Leave me. Please.” They do.
In the empty house, Judith listens to the clock tick the minutes by. Then, she goes over to the mantelpiece and takes down each framed photo, one by one, until every wall and shelf in the house is bare. She fills the box but does not carry it to the attic just yet. She strips his bed but lies down on the mattress regardless. She is all out of tears. When the sun dies completely, she retrieves the book and studies the glossy cover: Michael Matthews. Michael Alexander Smith. Michael Matthews.
She mouths the words over and over, a stuck tape, names reeling thickly from her mouth like sickly treacle. The pixels of her brain piece together the ‘for sale’ sign of 30 years before – how quickly the Mr Matthews had left, the removal van leaving a deathly silence in its wake and a ‘I am sorry for your loss’ card, posted through her door two weeks later. The author photo on the back is an open wound, prising open the scab of her heart. A toothy smile. Her baby boy made man. She stays holding her boy until the sun peaks in the window once more.
Isabelle Kenyon is northern poet and the author of This is not a Spectacle, Micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes To Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York).
She is the editor of Fly on the Wall Press, a socially conscious small press for chapbooks and anthologies. Anthology, Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, which raises money for UK mental health charity, Mind, came runner up for Best Anthology at the Saboteur Awards, 2018.
Her poems have been published in poetry anthologies by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Verve Poetry Press, and Hedgehog Poetry Press. She has had poems published in literary journals such as Wordsmith HQ, Eunoia Review, FoxTrott Uniform, Mojave Heart Review, The Blue Nib, Breath and Shadow, The Pangolin Review, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Eskimo Pie, Scrittura, Anti - Heroin Chic and more.