Guest Poem: James Hall, “Whenever you have to grow, little brother”

Whenever you have to grow, little brother

I will imagine your 12-year-old fingernails cracking
under the guitar chord strains of Green Day’s ‘Good-Riddance’
a whole childhood lining the thin threads of dusty band shirts
that lay to rest in attics stashed with stuffed animals
you pretended could all talk with the same voice (yours)
and I will remember the way you built up toddler temper-tantrums
to towering tornadoes that shook the most creative K’Nex creations
I’d ever seen, as they watched you bleed
wishing they could snap themselves to colourful splinters for you
see these lungs can still scream that they love you
these heartstrings will still soar upward toward yours
from the bottom-basement of my skeleton
dip dovetailed with my pride tribal drum-beating
against the bloodlines of your teenage palms
as I wish them well, with my own clasped in prayer
but my throat will remain dry, frozen outside your bedroom door at 1am
fumbling in ragged grey pyjama’s on the landing, I am the humbled, crumbling old man
wanting to fold you into the walls where you have delicately drawn out your dreams
hold you up from sadness that could
thinking that if I snuck inside to scrawl all of my mistakes on pretty post-its
placed them bare upon your patterned pillows 
you would awake at sunrise, peel them from your boyish cheeks 
and write back: ‘youth is about getting lost, kid’
then you’d promise you won’t let go, the way those moments in music
hurt like they have fully fucked us to the floorboards
lip-kissed our memories with quiet choirs of fleeting friendships swirling
like kites reeled closer and caught in motion
leaving our spun hearts sprawled across the fingerprints of too many album discs
though we both know there’s no such thing as too many album discs
and they are scratched with every city’s arms that hold us as we sleep
pressing pieces of ourselves to endless sofa bed creases
so as I watch those wobbling eyes bravely waltzing
beneath a sky traced with your big headphones blazing for the world
I’ll need you to always hear 38 Palmerston Street
whatever dreams may sing beneath your skin
and there she will come, the worn, withering voice of mum
swearing at you for not using the butter knife right 
still her words will touch you deeper than anything art can offer
she is a boiling kettle and Tesco shopping bagged angel
purging booze pulsing-parties and first-class flight window seats

fuck first-class flight window seats

because the best part is: 
you could turn 35 headcaved to an all-day all-night rave 
tip-toe dancing backwards across glistening Icelandic glacial rivers
or swallowing the dune-drenched dustclouds
of Afghanistani Middle-Eastern barren desert
but there are more ordinary roots that will pluck at that worldly wingspan
as you touch base with stitched family feathers
blossoming from beans on toast in the measliest living room
HP sauce on demand, Fraiser reruns crackling from the telly
grandma’s snug stories soundtracking dad’s hopeless one-liner grins
china mugs chinking with the shrill gossip of boisterous aunties
here may seem like nothing
but little brother if I may ever speak one truth for you
I will pledge that here in this scene, breathes our everything


James Hall, a writer and performance poet from Derby, is a 2011 Roundhouse Poetry Slam semi-finalist.


About Charlotte Morgan Nwokenna

Editor and Public Relations Officer
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