The Pathologist’s Report
“This is the body of a tall, fit, well-built young man.”
Lying here on the slab, stitched from the navel to the chaps,
they’ve done your hair all wrong.
I’ll pull it back down your forehead, cover the two deep gouges
parallel as tracks cutting into your gorgeous face.
Wouldn’t want you to look uncool.
Your nose, I see is patched together with skin-coloured filler.
No in or out breath at all. Can’t put that together.
O the pity of it.
Apart from the abrasions on your beautiful hands
and the wreckage of your face, you are dead perfect.
Not a broken bone apart from the one
around your neck, your twenty-first present,
I see it’s split in two.
Your cock lolls to one side as I pull back the sheet to
check that it is really you, not some changeling they’ve swapped.
You are starting to smell of embalming fluid, drowned in it
so I’m still not sure. You were always so shower-fresh.
I’m stealing now from the dead, taking your wedding ring away,
freshly cut, to give to our son when his tiny hands turn
man’s hands. Right now they wave in the air, clutching at nothing.
This numb thing is not you surely?
Both of us are sucking our fists at night, it stops my screaming.
Don’t fret, your son is sleeping, looked after by our friend
while I am down here in the morgue looking at you, for you.
You seemed to have slipped by me, whistled off to climb I suppose,
what do I tell him when he’s old enough to understand?
You do know, he’ll never be old enough. I’m going home now
betraying you by leaving. Now you know how it feels.
It’s cold here and you won’t speak to me.
I want to lay my hand on a warm cheek, lean over him
and check his faint breath for life and catch my breath with love
when his eyes open and he recognises me and smiles.
Lie there then, with your eyes shut against me.
Mine stare at the dark all night, dry and open,
Hearing you trip and fall, seeing you
silently, desperately grasping at crumbling rock after rock.
They all let you down.
I really am going now. You’ll be sorry you
Let me go, you know. Alright then, one kiss and
I’ll be off.
The beginning and the ending of that part of our lives happened very close together. On May 14 1994 my partner and I were married in the tiny settlement of Kimble in Central Otago, New Zealand. There were ten of us in attendance and we had hired two lovely old colonial cottages. Our son Sam was 21 months old and delighted in playing with his slightly older cousins Sophie and Alexandra. It was autumn and extraordinarily beautiful with the reds and russets of the trees against the backdrop of the vast deep blue Central skies on the most clear, crisp day.
I was thirty eight and hitched to a gorgeous younger man of twenty-nine; the word “cougar” hadn’t been invented then but if it had I stand accused. We meandered home to Dunedin via the Moeraki boulders and I went back to work as deputy principal at Kaikorai Valley High School and Brett stayed at home to look after Sam but picking up some part time work as and when it suited. Three weeks later Brett went mountain climbing back in the Central Otago region on Mount Sefton with a friend. It was another beautiful day, even at home in Dunedin. My father came to my door about 2 pm and brushing past me in agitation asked me if Brett was climbing. Brett had slipped and fallen after a crampon had broken and died on the mountain. Numbed, I went into Sam’s room and stood there looking at him sleeping so peacefully in his cot, his little fists above his head and his muzzie lying on his chest. But this is a story about our adventure in the Pyrenees so I’ll fast forward. I read all the grief books that mainly said don’t make any changes for at least a year. Then ignored the advice and resigned from my job, put my house on the market, bought another in Christchurch unconditionally and moved within six weeks to live next door to my best friend. We ripped the palings off the fence in between the houses and a well-worn path emerged as we visited daily. I sold the back half of the section to my sister and built a house there and then moved in and built my own at the front. Our happy little community began and lasted until I moved away with Sam when he was twelve.