The Wheelchair

by Michael Longley

Pushing you in your wheelchair to the sea
I look down at your yellowy bald patch
And recall your double-crown’s tufty hair.

You were the naughtier twin, were you not?
It was I who wept when you were chastised.
where am I pushing you, dear brother, where?

Notes on the Poem

"The Wheelchair" from 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize International winner The Stairwell by Michael Longley is comprised of two gentle tercets into which much is compressed. As reviewer Tim Cummings astutely observes, "The poems in The Stairwell don’t waste their breath, don’t tire themselves with unnecessary movement." There is indeed movement in "The Wheelchair", but in its understated economy, it speaks volumes about the anguish that one twin feels for the other, who is in decline. Longley devoted half of this collection to elegies for his twin brother. Longley's poem and last week's Poem of the Week, a poignant fragment of Denise Riley's "A Part Song", are two striking studies of loss. Much of the power of both pieces lies in their palpable sensory qualities: Riley's are sonic, Longley's are visual and tactile. Both vibrate in the reader's memory long after the words have been absorbed.

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