by b holton
I have not yet learned how to be a brother.
There was a time you said to me that I never
would be but you were drunk and slurring in
the kitchen. That was the closest you ever put
your face to mine. Just begging. I think you
said I love you. There was a cold draft from the
door you left open. A semi-naked girl. Now
here I am waking up to a phone call from you
again and my fingers are numb walking to the
gym. Before this I was thinking about how
much I misunderstood Muñoz my first
semester. I was imagining myself with a
different body. I was counting the cigarette
butts. Sometimes I picture you dead and
nauseate myself. You tell me everything is sad
all the time and you have forgotten to eat again
today. The new medication is one I used to
take. That was around the time I started lying
religiously and had never kissed a girl. Now
I’m at the gym and you’re still texting. I’ve
started doing some reading on progressive
overload and have made myself a planned
workout on the notes app in my phone. Each
time you text I have to keep swiping away to
see what I’m supposed to be doing. I always
feel weaker than I am. After this I will be
showering with the lights off. I will be aching.
Last week I surprised myself on the bench press
but nobody important was there to see it. Just
me and the girl who does really deep squats and
the checker who scolds me for not changing my
shoes. There was a time I threw my shoulder
out heaving you onto my back. Do you
remember? Remember when I tried to clean
your ears and nearly ruptured an eardrum? You
trusted me enough back then. Speaking of The
Body: did you know one time I told our parents
that Ms. Blaney’s head was shrinking and they
took me to an eye doctor who blew a puff of air
directly into my eyeball with no warning while
I stared at a picture of a floating hot air
balloon? Now I wince when I go to the eye
doctor and every time I put my eye up to
something I ask if it’s that thing where they
blow a puff of air. They always laugh but I’m
completely serious. It makes me so angry.
Sometimes the shrinking still happens when I
look at the hats I’ve hung up on my wall. I
think often about that air balloon stuck in time
in a thin glass plate. Never landing. You never
needed glasses. Even your wisdom teeth didn’t
need to be removed. I can’t stand when you cry.
It’s like listening to a sound of absolute loss.
Like a coin dropped into a deep hole. What is
that music they play on the hold line anyway?
Do you remember when you slammed your
finger in the door and had to get a hot needle
pushed through the nail to relieve the pressure?
I remember a table with a blue cloth and two
large swinging doors. I felt so guilty it was you.
Dad couldn’t stand the screaming so he went to
back to University & College Poetry Prizes