Submitted Date 03/08/2019

Coming Up for Air
Age 12, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1956
-- This is one poem, in an autobiographical series of poems, that I posted here at WriteSpike. Go to my stories section for others. They are in chronological order. --

My older brother had crossed a line
although it would take years to unravel

seeing him above me,
hovering on the pond's surface
was like looking through a window
in heavy rain

his strong arm held the top of my head
under the water
my hands flailed
unable to loosen his grip

then his blurred face moved a bit
and the sun behind him scattered light
into knives of broken rays

he pushed me deeper
below the water into eelgrass
where snapping turtles lived in the mud
and where there was a darkness
we all feared at the edge
of the sandy swimming area

seconds went by
then more
then still more

I could not breathe

finally, he let go
and I bobbed
breaking from the water
into air

he taunted me when I surfaced
"Can't take a joke,
still a baby with a child's easy hurt."

coughing and crying
my tears mixed with the drops
that fell from my face
I knew this 'horseplay'
had gone too far -
after that, I kept my distance

yet it would take another twenty years
before the final bond was broken


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  • Tomas Chough 6 months, 1 week ago

    One of the most intense poems yet. I've been in a million bad fights with my brother as well. You beat me with this one though. I don't know why some brothers fight so much, I think my worst fights were with my brother. Thanks for sharing Rick!

    • Rick Doble 6 months, 1 week ago

      I only realized when I was an adult that my brother was intensely jealous of me. He was my big brother who I looked up to, so it took me years to decipher his behavior. It was not just sibling rivalry or 'boys being boys'. He wanted to really hurt me but not be blamed for the damage.

  • Mary Jaimes-Serrano 6 months, 1 week ago

    I knew this 'horseplay' had gone too far - after that, I kept my distance
    Rick, this gave me chills. I have thought these exact words and lived the feelings evoked in this piece. Very nice work.

    • Rick Doble 6 months, 1 week ago

      My brother was very cagey and was good at disguising his aggression which usually fooled my parents. So I learned to 'read' his moods and avoid him when he was about to explode.

  • Miranda Fotia 5 months, 3 weeks ago

    This is a great piece! My sister tried to suffocate me several times with a pillow when I was a kid. I honestly think she wanted me to die and just kept losing her nerve. I will never understand how someone, even if they are just a pre-teen, can purposely inflict that kind of pain and fear onto another person for no reason other than just because they can because they are stronger. There were so many times I thought she was going to kill me.

    • Rick Doble 5 months, 3 weeks ago

      Pre-teen is worse. They have no moral compass at that point. It is just raw emotion, especially jealousy. But they are often quite under-handed as well. They don't want to get caught. My brother kept putting me in danger on the pond and while swimming, so he could always claim it was just an accident if I was hurt.

  • Kiersten Felch 5 months, 1 week ago

    We stick with toxic family far longer than we should because they're "family". It's the moments like these where we know who they are as people for the rest of our lives.

    • Rick Doble 5 months, 1 week ago

      I agree. Blood is thicker than water and all that stuff but often the relationship is dysfunctional and we would be better off without it.