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Rhian Gallagher

We are all here, sitting on the pavement

drinking beer. That kid, who is almost

a relation, sucking on her stick of Brighton rock.

Gull cries, and a busker singing ‘red, red wine’

as we pass the postcard along the line.

Oldest brother writes ‘I have just come along

for the ride’. Youngest brother scrawls ‘Hi mum,

a word from your son who never writes’.


I sit between them linking arms for the snap.

She’ll want a print. After years, and for once

in the same country, how having the same mother

can seem like a new fact – brothers,

looking like you just come down

from the high country, ready to put your hands

to anything: bouncing on the end of a bungy,

building a house. But it’s true, she taught us

all how to swim out in the sea,

we pick-up the story just beyond the break-line.


Family, family, will I always think for each of you

that there is something important

that I haven’t said. Do you think like this?

As we fall in and out of agreement, and bits

and pieces float through the day that seem to come

from miles away. Except the sky here is muddy,

the beach stony, and Hove’s bathing chalets look

like outhouses built outback of an Opihi bach*.


Only flickers of home then, below the jazzy roofline

on the Esplanade when Palace Pier lights come on

making us all hungry. And on the motorway back

to London when the car goes ropy, and we know

if we stop the whole thing will likely die -

it’s as if this is where the family’s always been as we sing,

sing like hell for all the lights to turn green.


* Kiwi slang: hut by the sea, a river or lake

From Ambit 162, 2000.