by Natalie Rees

The emergency stop
was the first thing you taught me.
You always saw me as some accident
or other waiting to happen.

Gears one to three were all I would need
and I should check my rear-view
mirror every four to five seconds.

You got out and walked around to my side,
I climbed over the gearstick to yours.
Steered us in laps around the back of Dunnes’,
cranked us on up into fourth.

Twenty years on and it was fifth
all the way to the ward.
Your chest a rattling engine, spluttering
words at me through bent valves
the length of your cylinder throat.

I cupped my hand round your knuckles.
Pushed the spasms this way and that,
tried to shift us into reverse;
my eyelashes filtering the drops of black
as best they could from your bedclothes.

I glanced back at you over my right shoulder
before moving off. You had already disappeared.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: It was my first car and although 10 years old, it was new to me. I bought it three weeks before I started my first teaching job and had to teach myself to drive within three weeks.(Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland, 2001.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Poems usually come to me with a single word or short phrase, around which the poem writes itself without particular direction or theme. It tends to evolve as I go, and the themes are usually the result of a combination of unconscious processing mixed with deliberate use of poetic techniques. Other times I may have a line for a poem ending drop into my head, and then I figure out a starting point and the imagery and connections that I can employ to work my way to the desired ending. ¶ I came across this writing prompt and sat down to deliberately write to a given topic, which is something I rarely, if ever do. I had a clear memory of myself as a teenager being taught to drive by my mother, and the first thing she taught me being the emergency stop. And of course, the next thing for European drivers, the gear stick. ¶ I used the gear numbers as opportunities to “shift” the poem itself into a different “gear” leading me from the car-park to the hospital ward where she was approaching death by a terminal brain tumour, which had affected her ability to breathe, speak, and communicate. I attempted to convey this through the car metaphors of her chest “a rattling engine spluttering words at me,” and through me massaging the seizures in her hand with the metaphor of a gearstick “I cupped my hand round your knuckles and pushed the spasms this way and that, tried to shift us into reverse.” The tears I was holding back also mirrored the oil filter of a car “my eyelashes filtering the drops of black as best they could from your bedclothes.” ¶ The title “Blindspot”  was referred to in the closing as I looked over my shoulder and I could no longer see her, meaning the woman and mother I had known and loved was already in some ways gone. I could no longer see her (as she had been).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natalie Rees is an Irish writer living in West Yorkshire, England, where she works primarily as a communications officer for a large social care provider. She is the reviews editor at the online journal High Window Press. Her previous careers include copywriting, book editing, primary school teaching, and poetry therapy workshop facilitation in a residential home. In her spare time, she runs a café in the Calderdale region for people living with a dementia, plays folk fiddle badly for her own amusement, and is a regular at local poetry readings. Natalie holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester.