To My Younger Brother at a Zen Monastery
We haven’t spoken since you moved to Maine. But I found this poem of mine from middle school while cleaning out the old attic. Thought of you. It’s about a bird. Back then, I called it lame; something’s still wrong with the wing. Do you think it will ever fly or sing? We’d seen a bluebird from our bedroom window almost every day that April—wounded, darting back and forth in a pool of roots and rain. Watching him, frantic, recalled your voice: He got me! from the time I closed the car door on your thumb. That breathless, staggered rhythm— I don’t know why I laughed. You were in pain. Was I cruel, anxious, caught off guard? You never made a peep. At the dentist once, the Novocaine faded and you accepted it in silence. Accepted I would always be the favorite. After I read the poem in class, I placed my ear on the cold surface of the desk. It was like talking long distance on our old rotary phone: sharp and static, broken full of emptiness. Like laying my head on Dad’s chest while he spoke, just after his mother died. I was seven. He was stoic. Mom was mute and still. You went upstairs alone.