on some days i am deluged by loss
loss of friends who disappear
loss of those who die and don’t say goodbye
those who say goodbye and cover me
with their ancient, drying tears
the quick fading of family love:
i am sitting at my brothers’ wake
listening to all the comments
which create who he is and was
suddenly i hear my own voice
it takes time for me to speak,
‘he was my hero’
and i look at the casket and weep
i see myself riding a tricycle, i am five
i’m wearing an army uniform
singing bawdy songs
from the second world war
with words i don’t understand
i see myself coming to a stop on larkins way
worrying about my brother’s safety
wondering if i’ll ever see him again
i can’t talk to anyone
they all think i don’t understand
the terror of war
and then, as if years disappear immediately,
he is standing in front of me with a huge smile
wearing civilian clothes, “help me”
i drag in a big, bulky, khaki bag
he pulls the bag open and bottles of liquor
roll everywhere
i looked

at him with a big question mark,
‘didn’t you bring any clothes?’
‘you’re lookin’ at them danny boy’
‘but i did bring you one thing’
he hands me a small japanese flag
‘did you take it from a body?’
‘no, i took it from an ass’
look at it everyday
throw it across the room
watch it slide down the wall.

all of this fades
my brother becomes more himself
and i grow up and become myself
when he dies, we are almost
distant strangers
still joined by love
but covered by confusion
his son helps me pack his apartment
‘what are all these little cans?’
‘pretty much the same–chipped beef ‘
‘is that all he ate?”pretty much—
chipped beef over noodles,
chipped beef over rice,
chipped beef on rye,
eating had become a boring routine. ‘
in the bathroom we were bagging
his personal things,
this doesn’t seem right
he should be doing this
‘Hey, BEN, give us a sign’
and the lights blinked a long blink
‘Whoa, that’s wierd—right on cue’

in the church
where the priest revered my brother
and his wife
my eyes were floating around
looking for Ben with wings
my voice clicked into Schuberts’ Ave Maria
i could see Ben wafting away with me
we were in comfortable lounge chairs
drinking Iron City beer
and throwing confetti
as we flew higher we could hear
his grandson playing taps
the sound disappeared and we were alone