Pat Borthwick

Late on my seventh birthday
my brother murdered somebody
and was asking me, in my pyjamas,
to share and keep his deadly secret.

That night we sat on hessian sacks
in our shadowy allotment shed.
Moonlight slid its tongue
across fork tines and spade shanks.

Upturned terracotta pots
towered on the prick-out bench.
Oil cans occasionally gave off
a metal burp scattering the crawlies.

Still sticky with warm blood
his hands reach for mine,
press something hush-hush
and squelchy-squishy in them.

Eye sockets, he says, Don't look
Let your fingers feel inside.
Eyeballs, he says, swapping them
for something squeezable, moist

but twice as cold. Teeth. The tongue.
Piece by piece I hold his slimy crime
and promise a sister's silence.
Then a dumb stump of head.

I know its dome of veinwork, chin,
its wrinkles, cheekbones, twisted nerves.
I know it is our father's. And I know why.
Until the plank door bangs open and

on the jamb hangs his beery profile.
His torch prances across a slatted box
stacked with cut tomatoes, Brussels sprouts,
ten peeled carrots, two kiwis, one courgette,
my brother's hands sparkling with ketchup.
Get back both in now afore I kills ya
A red cabbage rolls towards my feet.
I contemplate its future toss into the compost.


Return to Adjudicators Report