Brother / ICU

Eventually he would come around
with a gift and indicate the value
as if he were the cause of my violence.
The voice seizes up in that situation
as the thing is flung against the wall.
In the wake of the smash, nothing can be heard,
as after a train passes an open window.
It was that familiar. Which wails the loudest,
the wall or the thing? The calm after the question.
What made him sullen made me savage.

*

The last gift was a memoir of The Great War.
A German soldier would crawl on his belly
toward the English trenches to overhear the talk.
Esteemed as a spy, he lay at the edge of exposure
for entirely different reasons.

*

For eleven days my brother lay comatose in the ICU.
I couldn’t undertake the sorrows of the world.
I sat on a chair provided for the waiting and read —
The medics tried to keep him alive on cognac
and camphor, but the needle pointed to death.

*

There was a half-light in which we once played,
halved again as my self grew imaginary.
All those years I entered and returned
through the portal, but also struggled not to enter
at all. The loyal quarter-light followed me.

*

In the waiting room, a receptionist sprinkled fish food
on the aquarium’s waters … My brother and I crouched
at the end of the pier, each dared the other to dive.
He jumped in. I flung a stone and waited for the splash.
Years passed as he swam back to shore.
The other – still listening for the splash.

*

You’ve never thrown anything in anger
except that one time, she said.
At least not against a wall.

*

In those fields of filled-in trenches,
the place quivers with departed life
because one stands there almost thoughtlessly.
I crawled back as if I wanted to tell you.

Ron Slate

Ron Slate

Ron Slate’s latest poetry collection, Joy Ride, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in spring 2023. He is the editor and publisher of the online literary arts magazine On The Seawall.
Ron Slate

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Author: Ron Slate

Ron Slate’s latest poetry collection, Joy Ride, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in spring 2023. He is the editor and publisher of the online literary arts magazine On The Seawall.