The music that plays in the background is artist James Leyland Kirby under the name Caretaker with the album An Empty Bliss Beyond This World (artwork by Ivan Seal). The album is built from layers of sampled 78s rpm gramophone records. These vague snippets of archaic sonics reflect the ability of Alzheimers patients to recall the songs of their past, and with them recollections of places, people, moods and sensations.
In the video you sit at the feet of your grandparents you sit very quietly all through the adults talking
A song plays our Mum loved all the kids carrying bowls of fruit to feed the parents
What do you have on? A vest corduroy pants thin blonde hair hanging in a mullet, very full cheeks
This is the kind of splitting white grief when a friend from school baptises her child this white thing wrapped in white robes waiting for the two white parents into their arms he goes everyone sighs
We celebrate you by lifting you up
Someone buys a bottle of champagne for Mum on your first birthday you’re gone she drinks the whole of it to herself each time pausing before pouring say: you two don’t mind if I have another glass of this do you?
Mum says roll me another little ciggie
His death came to us like a wave from another place, you turn up and he’s already being carried out, all like leaves shaking in the shock of it
When I speak to the last person my brother loved she blinks hard as if dirt’s in her eye, she sleeps on a blow up mattress, always wears denim
What happened after the instance: real and private things we all sit in the lounge room surrounded by quiches, cards someone visits to wash the dishes
I am definitely his sister I am definitely a daughter I am the eldest I am definitely not a woman this is definitely important I am definitely none of these
When all the people are gathered in the building someone drops to the ground, faints. A voice somewhere: it’s because it’s so hot in here won’t you open some windows?
A year later on the first floor of an apartment you see a very pretty bright pink orchid and wonder why you’re so hard to look after
The sky is grey your mother is going back inside
I watch a video of local Melbourne writer Khalid Warsame he speaks about grief after experiencing the horrific death of Manmeet Alisher, he is in Wellington the after shocks of the earthquakes are shuttering he in a long time is feeling the outside world truly and rightly reflecting his inner world grief is a wound things grow around
Did your brother love through does your brother still live/love
You stop at the lights crossing Nicholson and Hoddle a ginger haired person motions to wash your windscreen you say course they ask how your day well not so good you say why they say it’s a year since my brother died today you say how did he die they say epilepsy you say oh my dad has epilepsy they say he had his first seizure at 30 they thought it was a blood clot a brain malfunction but it’s epilepsy he’s been on medication ever since and his fine. The light turns green you give the ginger haired person 5 bucks and drive off, they looked scared in thought
You wonder about the sky, things around you soaked in measurement, transparency
A friend whose sibling died five years ago on the date your brother dies tells you after it’s been a year that they spent the day in Alfred ICU donating artwork of their sister’s
Imagining being 6 floors up again can you even see the ground
You eat a custard and jam filled pastry which is good and makes you feel alive, helps in remembering
The evening of the day my brother dies I go to his house for the the first time carrying a bunch of sunflowers, afternoon light heavy, one of his friends hands me what’s left of his pouch of tobacco. Later I’m reminded of this whilst listening to a podcast where the writer describes visiting ‘Untitled’ (Portrait of Ross in L.A) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. It’s an installation in the corner of a gallery where candy is individually wrapped in multi colour cellophane weighing the exact body weight of his partner Ross when he died of AIDS complications. Each person who takes the candy contributes to the slow disappearance of the sculpture over the course of the exhibition. The writer on the podcast talks about the joy and devastation of ‘taking on’ someone’s body through your own body, alchemy of someone who’s gone.
I smoke the last of his pouch my friend over the Internet says I love the tangible connection of that, so intertwined with his skin and his mouth.
Frankie Hanman Siegersma is a queer, non binary radio producer, editor, poet and essayist living in Narrm (Melbourne) on Wurundjeri country. Writing of theirs has been published or is forthcoming in Cordite, Australian Poetry online, Suburban Review, Rabbit and Hunter Anthology of Contemporary Feminist Poetry.