Smoking With My Brother

You left us at 21—brown leather jacket and
blue jeans, feathered hair parted down the middle,
freckles, the bright green eyes you got from
our mother. I never wondered if her leaving
broke you, smoking and drinking by 12,
popping pills by 13, dealing drugs in your
Windsor knot and dress pants to the stoners
at our catholic school just down the block
from home. You worshiped the Doors,
danced with the gangly arms and wild heart
of a rock star, and Dad imagined you’d run off
to join a band and never come back—like her.

After your wreck on that rainy night, we found
your box of poems, foretelling a life that would
end before you aged. “Never trust anyone over
30,” the hippies once chanted, and you would
have raised your fist right alongside them.

Dear brother, this year you would be 49, far
too old to trust—and yet, I would still follow
your hunched shoulders all the way down
to the creek slithering behind Grandma’s,
pack of lifted Winston 100s and box of matches,
I’d perch beside you on a flat rock, light
the cigs against the wind, and not yet knowing
how to inhale, but so you’d think I was as cool
as I believed you to be, hold the smoke in my mouth
as long as I could stand, the stale taste of tobacco,
cotton and paper mixing on my tongue, pretend.


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