by Gianni Skaragas
Artwork by Alexa Gaffaney
My brother shouts to no one in particular, an insult
he had once known, old hurts fragmented yet orderly
a new land in his empty pockets.
He damns the bulb hanging from the ceiling and fires
his toy gun at random intervals until he lays it
on my mother’s dress
a dry riverbed between us.
Ηe spouts all kinds of threats
a long nickering white marble thoroughbred with bruised lips
propelling his wheelchair furiously toward the picture of our father.
Did he spend our money, he asks as if he feared waking someone
his mouth drawn tight—
it never means one thing,
the face of an insect gazing through his eyes
the sharp smell from the weeks-old vase of hyacinths
the shame building in the big-headed child
the wars of our boyhood over his shoulder.
If only his youth were buckskin stretched over a golden doorknob
to hide the uncontainable heart
behind a door always open a crack.
Can we leave the bulb on till I’m asleep, he says as he runs
a hand across his eyes dimming away the past
I feed him watermelon slices on paper napkins
clogging his nostrils.
He kisses the palms of my grasping hands
the way actors improvise in an enactment
of momentary hiccup
the inescapable sob,
the napkins stained with red tears as precise as county lines
too earthly to be seen on the ground
someone else’s pride he wears like a coat
now worth one third of what he had expected
an alien punctuation in the gray roots along the part line
an ended track branching off to the left
a crack between a man’s hands and his father’s pension plan.
They sin differently, he says
Who? He can’t see who he has become
the lines, the roots, the pride.
My brother’s enemies are shadows, the hawk’s response
to an airplane for which neither the sky or gravity can be blamed.
My brother is a white marble thoroughbred with bruised lips
He thinks his hands are red but it’s the tears
he can’t see.