An immature black eagle walks assuredly
across a prairie meadow. He pauses in mid-step
with one talon over the wet snow to turn
around and see.
Imprinted in the tall grass behind him
are the shadows of his tracks,
claws instead of talons, the kind
that belongs to a massive bear.
And he goes by that name:
Ma kwi so ta.
And so this aegis looms against the last
spring blizzard. We discover he’s concerned
and the white feathers of his spotted hat
flicker, signaling this.
With outstretched wings he tests the sutures.
Even he is subject to physical wounds and human
tragedy, he tells us.
The eyes of the Bear-King radiate through
the thick, falling snow. He meditates on the loss
of my younger brother—and by custom
suppresses his emotions.
Originally published in Callaloo. Copyright © 1996 by Ray A. Young Bear. Used with the permission of the author.
We sit side by side,
brother and sister, and read
the book of what will be, while a breeze
blows the pages over—
desolate odd, cheerful even,
and otherwise. When we come
to our own story, the happy beginning,
the ending we don’t know yet,
the ten thousand acts
encumbering the days between,
we will read every page of it.
If an ancestor has pressed
a love-flower for us, it will lie hidden
between pages of the slow going,
where only those who adore the story
ever read. When the time comes
to shut the book and set out,
we will take childhood’s laughter
as far as we can into the days to come,
until another laughter sounds back
from the place where our next bodies
will have risen and will be telling
tales of what seemed deadly serious once,
offering to us oldening wayfarers
the light heart, now made of time
and sorrow, that we started with.
From Collected Poems by Galway Kinnell. Copyright © 2017 by The Literary Estate of Galway Kinnell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother's body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I'd say, What?
And he'd say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I'd say, What?
And he'd say, This, sort of looking around.
From What the Living Do (W. W. Norton, 1997). Copyright © 1997 by Marie Howe. Used with the permission of the author.
Untying ropes from flagpoles.
Motionless, reluctant, unchanged
even by the stillness of flags
in a century of ordinary flags. How
I love to ride with my brother
even if below our joy persists
a collective hush and something
like Lake Michigan in which we know
the day is long and the once true things
still are: What will I throw my weight
into today? Where are the sour
among the sweet cherries? The salt
from sweat makes our skin stick
but my brother is full of privilege
and things that comfort, of family
anger, that old-house feeling.
Copyright © 2015 by Robert Ostrom. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
after the poet asked how I would bury my brother Beyond the carrots and blind white worms, beyond the yellowing bone orchards and corkscrew roots, beyond the center of this churchless earth, beloved Peter, my little sorcerer, brought up dirty & wrong, you deserve more than to be smothered in mud. For all the gravel you were fed, for every bruise and knot that named you, I must plant you in a bed of blood-hot muscle, must deliver you into me, so I may carry you as the only mother you have ever known.
When the boys are carnivals
we gather round them in the dark room
& they make their noise while drums
ricochet against their bodies & thin air
below the white ceiling hung up like a moon
& it is California, the desert. I am driving in a car,
clapping my hands for the beautiful windmills,
one of whom is my brother, spinning,
on a hillside in the garage
with other boys he'll grow old with, throw back.
How they throw back their bodies
on the cardboard floor, then spring-to, flying
like the heads of hammers hitting strings
inside of a piano.
This is how they fall & get back up. One
who was thrown out by his father. One
who carries death with him like a balloon
tied to his wrist. One whose heart will break.
One whose grandmother will forget his name.
One whose eye will close. One who stood
beside his mother's body in a green hospital. One.
Kick up against the air to touch the earth.
See him fall, then get back up.
Then get back up.
Copyright © 2015 by Aracelis Girmay. From The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.