for Matthew, without regret or reservation
In the summer, I’d climb up the dying elm with her
slick and pernicious gashes, her plague of elm bugs,
to watch the cottonwood seed cluster and
breathe across the grass. You found me there once,
threw up a lighted strand of Black Cats that went
off at my feet. I nearly fell to my death.
You said “make me some lunch”
and the unjustness was just too much.
You shoved me effortlessly through the
pantry door, my skirt tore to the waist band.
For a skinny kid you sure had a low center of
gravity. Like an old shaolin monk. Like you’d
been patiently weaving a private gamut of landed
licks and meditating to drown out the nay-saying jocks
mumbling on in their neckless turpitude.
I made a break for it then, and cleared the hill on
foot before you caught me up in the green Datsun,
pulled the brake as you threw it in neutral.
We were all so competent driving stick back then.
Maybe that’s the take away. That town that bruised and
bullied the light right out of you gave you this practical gift.
I give up. I gave up then. And you dropped me like
rolled sod over the tailgate and drove me home.
A weird and lonely float in a southwestern gothic parade.
In the yard you turned the hose on me. The cold water
tasted like copper. But then so did the split in my lip.
My hair dripped down my neck and back, my whole
body rose in goose bumps and my shirt was sticking
and bunched across my chest. I cried out truce.
Please, truce. You agreed to stop if I didn’t tell.
My brother, before I could slip through the
front door you had it closed and bolted between us.
Nothing could ever be easy with you I screamed,
sprinted for the side door as you locked the
screen. I boiled over. You pushed your head against the
mesh, your thumbs in your ears, taunting me. I
calmly brained you with a rusted monkey wrench
dad asked us to put away. At that crack, before
the fall, as my short lived and stressful victory
settled like a dying wind around us, I knew I loved you,
staring at me, startled and wide-eyed in wonder
like you were seeing me for the first time.