Friday, July 22, 2016

Brothers

I.
We hold onto our stiff upper lips
the way Daddy does turkey legs
before the sobbing and the sucking

of hysterical air. We look like two
half-peeled bananas, soft and melted
as ice cream floating in flat root beer.

The bottoms of our church shoes grind
gummy against the sun-beat blacktop.
Melancholy is the only thing capable

of sloughing the rage off our faces
and down into the box with Mommy.
We bellow an odd sort of weeping, silver

as Daddy’s fillings, and ask him why
we have to be here listening to cabbies
cursing, passing us mercilessly, needing

a home cooked meal, like one of Mommy’s.
I want in the box, too, but you hold me back.


II.
These days we hang from ledges
and slip on the grill, let the smoke
soak in, drink our beer bottles dry,

watch baby birds grow hungry, let
the long yellow mush turn brown.
We feast on canned sardines over

saltine crackers, crush old hymnals
like spent cigarette butts, sneer
at the future through the wavy

asphalt blur of heat, and stare.
The emotion we deny is dread.
It’s dexterous as a barber-assassin

and cools stagnation into a softness
as rare as Daddy’s fully opened arms.
All his teeth were sharp as a bee sting,

were good for fighting over directions,
rights of way, manners, and the best way
to cuss. We could have used a few biscuits

with butter and some stewed red meat. Thanks,
brother. You saved me from the me I will never be.


III.
My legs flail like laundry in a wind
that enters lungs like the first deep
breath after serving time. Tipping

them straight and seeing the sun
through thick amber glass, I eat
a dozen corn meal muffins, brown

as Mommy’s coffin. Old memories
are a fishing line gliding into dark
I only know by tears and guilt as hot

as a smoldering and burnt-out brother.
The transparency of never seeing far
enough ahead and eyes that water

all the damn time smothers reason
like too many pillows. Mosquitoes
understand how hugs around necks

turn red and swollen into an infection
of rest in peace, brother that follows
never losing or choking on heavy pride.

There’s gravy in my beard. It’s heavily
peppered and meatless like the hot meals
you used to make me and the stuffed

mouthfuls of conversation that became
the reasons I never knew being alone.


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