Poem for my Brother, 1966-1987

The Prankster

You’d just turned 21, bought us the Beck’s Beer
we sipped while we waited for the drop-off

at my place, listened to the Stones. You had
silky hair like Mick Jagger, wore a leather jacket

from Dad’s shoe repair shop, dingy white Pumas.
We laughed about our childhood, how you played

tricks on me, like saying you were adopted or
that the shell tasted better than the egg.

We planned to run Dad’s business until we died.
You left to buy one more six-pack, Ruby Tuesday

playing on the stereo, and I was happy to wait
for you. You patted my shoulder, said, I’ll be back,

three words that became a broken promise—
Hours later, after I guessed you’d caught up

with a buddy, forgot to call, our uncle phoned
to say they found you one block from the store,

motorcycle mangled, brain stem snapped in two,
you never felt a thing. Eighteen years old, grief

dropped over me like a veil. I took a cab to our
grandparents, thought of when we were kids:

you made a noose out of plastic, tied it around
your neck, pretended to hang yourself–head slumped,

eyes bugged–from the top bunk. When Dad came
in, he popped you on the head with his knuckle.

I sit at our grandparents, watching the door,
waiting for you to waltz in like so many other
times to tell me that this was all a joke.

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