Name: Isabelle Brugmans
country : New Zealand

Although I was born in The Netherlands (1972), I grew up in New Zealand (Christchurch: 1978-1990) and therefore still consider myself a kiwi.  I returned the Holland just after my eighteenth birthday, where I studied English Language and Literature at the University of Utrecht, where I am currently working on a PhD.  I have also taught English at a high school in The Hague for the past seven years, and write poetry in my free time. 

Lake Ida: a Story

There’s a lake I know well
guarded by mountains
that cast shadows,
keeping cold and dark intact.
The only sound is the wind
and the screech of an occasional Kea –

a place so beautiful, you’ll do well to avoid it.
Take it from someone who knows:
escape is impossible.

But for those who dare, the following:
if you move towards the middle of the lake
in winter time,
you’ll come to the spot
where I

Perhaps the hole is still there:  a reminder
that I once was.

It happened like this:
while skating, I broke through the ice, was dragged under and pressed against the surface of the ice, the skin on my face sticking to the frozen water like a tongue stuck to a Popsicle. Clawing and scratching I dug the tips of my skates into the ice in an attempt to crawl my way back to the hole, to air, to freedom.

But to no avail.
I did my best, but kept slipping.

Seeing myself float further and further
into the darkness, further
away from the light – slowly – 
I saw the sun streaming through the opening in the surface;
my  lungs exploding,
my face and body burning from the cold,
then growing numb.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes,
just blind panic
and you.

Then I stopped struggling
and welcomed the silence instead.

You Were Right

In three steps
I cross the room to your bed;
I hold your hand.
You say
‘the world’s not coming to an end’
you say
‘I’m not coming to an end.’
But you’re wrong:
you are; it is.

Some arrive in black, some don’t.
Polite words are exchanged;
teary words
What binds us,
is the death of a loved one.
One who once held us

Now you desert the scene,
you descend
into the winter’s frosty earth,
roses on wood,
leaving a void.
You said
the world wasn’t coming to an end
you said
you weren’t coming to an end.

You were right.


Not for the faint-hearted –

In their talks, it seems they have
picked at the scab too much –
it has burst open
worse than expected;
it isn’t yet ready to heal.
She awakes one morning
stiff, dulled, unable to move.

She knew the risks, yet still says:
I don’t know what’s hit me –
help me, I’m falling to pieces –

In a dream
She, bare hands,
broke open her rib-cage – 
is my heart still there?
are my lungs still there?
Is it beating?
Are they breathing?

reduced to
a pathetic, discarded doll:
plastic, naked, exposed, abandoned.
One arm and one eye left:
the hole and the empty stare.

she appeals to me for help,
Save me save me save me
But my efforts are in vain:
at my touch the doll crumbles and turns to dust;
I’ve become a stranger
against both our will.

Now all we can do is trust
that things will take a turn,

Just For Me

My hair is tangled around my face,
my torso, my throat;
blue fish stuck in blond strands,
bubbles occasionally escape from my mouth.
I’m drowning

and all the while
Snow White and her seven little men
happily pass time
prancing around my room.

I know,
my imagination is lively
(my doctor tells me so)
but secretly
fear and fever continue
to have their way with me.

Apparently this anguish
isn’t enough to stop the snakes
from spiralling up the staircase,
sliding into my room and 
taking up residence in my head.

Fists clenched, eyes shut,
I sit this out,
I sweat this out,
I grin and bear it,
I surrender:
the first step to salvation
(my doctor tells me so) –

a gift for the soul,
just for me.


you sigh your last breath.
We are all in silence,
in awe,
around the white hospital bed.

Your body is covered
in black and blue bruises;
from the poking and prodding
you have endured.

You think
of the babies you have carried,
you have cradled. 
You think
of better days.

The summer’s pink nail polish
still on your toes.

Garden Vacancy

Through my window
morning is like evening, or worse,
like night – 
ongoing, never-ending darkness.
Or so it seems.

My bulbs
aren’t in the least bit disturbed; 
they continue their heavy-duty labouring
under the earth;
working like there’s no tomorrow.

Lying low,
they wait for the sun to reappear,
for the temperature to rise again –

to them a golden opportunity:
a chance to boast their colours.
Or so I imagine.