With My Brother

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.

About this Poem

“I won’t write what this poem is about, and I don’t know what inspired it, so I'll tell you a memory: During my move from California to New York City, while driving alone and without cruise control, I kept hearing news about a boy who was lost on a raft in Lake Michigan. At first, through Nevada and Utah, the reports were rare (storms had halted the search), but as I drove farther east (Iowa, Illinois), news of the boy became more frequent. Visibility on the highway was bad, but then in Indiana, where Interstate 80 runs concurrent with 94, the fog broke, and suddenly I saw Lake Michigan outside my window. And for what couldn’t have been more than half an hour, I rode alongside that lake where the boy was still lost.”
Robert Ostrom