Talking on the phone


My Brother Running
Collected in: My Brother Running


Don't think I don't notice it,
this thing that comes into my voice
when I talk about him,
but four years later, here's
how it is: I still find myself staring
at the puzzle of leaves outside my window,
suddenly awake in the dark just before
the time of his running and saying
No, right out loud, seeing only then

Bob has closed the door so lightly
and walked out past the add-ons
of family room and porch which never
made the small house big enough
in some other time; that my little brother
has already lain down in his bed
after six crazy months of it
and one last, long journey of his heart
while his wife climbed on top of him


and breathed into his mouth
and his little son, God help him, beat
and beat on his chest, discovering
perhaps the slightest smile on his lips
like the smile in my dream
when I tell Bob that someone has died,
someone we knew very well, seeing at last
that the one who has died
is my smiling brother himself--

leaving me with such
fragments! A red football
he threw twenty years ago
in the K-Mart, all the way
from Sports where he couldn't breathe
for laughing to Stationery where I
saw it wobbling down from the ceiling
and caught it right in front of the clerk:
telling him I'll never go into a store

with you again, and shouting
at him from my bed with the worst
hangover of my life, This is the last
time I ever go drinking
with you, while my crazy brother
followed my face under the covers, kissed it
with a cold beer, then lifted the bottle
high above his bobbing Adam's apple
and drained it. Loving my screams,

of course, wanting me to say I'll never
get into an automobile with you all those times
he pulled out in his big car to pass my poor,
anxious, dumb neighbor George Kohler
on a double yellow line at the same
curve, giving him the finger up through
the sun roof. That was the way
my brother was, doing seventy
and smiling that shit-eating smile,

knowing the next day I'd be right
there with him, just as he knew that afternoon
twenty years later when I opened the door
to discover him, grown skinny from all
the running--knew that when he smiled
this time, I'd be unable to say
I'll never go or get into it,
but would take the hand he held out and go along
and get more deeply than ever into it.



Photograph: Nathan Proctor’s Football, Biddeford, Maine