Open Letter to My Brother

by Jae Clark

Did      you      know,
as Google tells me,
multi-blade         razors
cut            hair beneath
the skin. Smooth to bald-
ness, soft bed of              potential
infection, ingrowth. In short,
I bought a rotary shaver
and witch hazel,              to help
redness,               acne. All-
natural astringent, an aftershave
that won’t burn               or dry
my skin—it smells like                roses—
and face              lotion, too,
non-         comedogenic,
for ‘combination                  skin’.
Second puberty is a bitch
in these small ways
but only the small ones—
the small               injections,          rise
in libido,                receding hair
line, nothing          compared
to no more        monthly
bleeding, to muscled     shoulders,
to the squaring of round hips,
and facial hair. This
is              the easiest part
to explain. The smallest tile
in my    gendered            mosaic:
the body            I can show
him,       Dad,        here
it is,       here I am.
The rest?           Seemingly untethered
‘they    /           them’?                       Dresses
and hair?                         know,
I always                 have to clarify,
to strangers, that                dad
is alive,                  despite all
appearances. Ghostly,                  maybe,
quiet,        but alive. He even
loves me,             some
of me, a little.     Enough
that he may want to teach
me        to shave, in this
second            puberty, as he might
have done       once,
for           your first.
                             Did he,               brother?
Model it for you?
In the old house,          modest
bathroom I don’t remember
the color          of, his cheek
pulled taut       with grimy, workman’s
fingers in a mottled mirror,        ok,
first    with    the grain
then against,           make
sure      you’re plenty soaped
up.                        Did he
hold your face in his hand
and do it for you?
Water trickling                down
his wrist and forearm,
dropping                 off his elbow
to the floor, looking, intently
at your face, brother—
did you                   watch
his eyes,         a green
like unkempt moss,
half brown, and bright—
was his hand     warm, brother,
was he careful and slow, so
careful not to     cut
you, gentle,     and if
he did, brother,               if
he did,                                   did he
press a scrap of                      paper
to the bleed, show you
that too, did he
apologize, brother,         sorry,
just press that— yeah,
right there,         it’ll stop
soon.         It’s hard to imagine
our father being soft
enough              to touch
the face of his child.