I’ve been sitting on today’s poem for quite some time. I think mostly because I’m not crazy about it, or just never felt that it was “right.” I managed to turn a couple good phrases in there that actually stand out for me, but all in all there’s a missing element, something that no matter how many times I read it I can’t quite locate or fix. I never got a chance to workshop “Chest Bump” in any capacity. Hell, I don’t even know that my brother read it. Somehow, though, after his comments to me about last week’s poem, featuring a poem about my “brother” seemed appropriate this time around. Just the other day I was talking to my lady about siblings, and how it is I’m always shocked to find siblings who don’t get along. I couldn’t possibly imagine that, nor understand it. My brother and I came from a broken marriage. Our parents separated when I was 6 (he was 10). For a long time, he was the only source of stability in my life. That is, my mom would always be my mom and my dad would always be my dad. But when they were no longer a single unit, they were simply different. My brother, though, would always be my brother, and if he changed at all it was for the better. That is, our relationship only grew stronger. So, again, those of you at odds with your siblings, well, you’ve got my sympathy.
When he first sees me my big brother
chest bumps me so hard I lose my balance
and land flat on my ass, so embarrassed
I think to take a swing at him would somehow
give me back my pride, but instead I end up
laughing, convinced it’s far easier
than war. It wasn’t always this way.
As boys we’d throw down on one another
for so much less, our wild fists spinning,
connecting with whatever crossed us —
shoulder, ribcage, jaw. It was all the same
so long as it hurt, and I know sure as shit
every hit hurt something awful,
outweighed by twenty pounds easy, yet too
damn stupid to notice. So I took
my regular beatings like a man, and now
and then snuck a blow so good my brother’d
back off or beat me worse. Either way,
I always woke inspired so I could go
another round any time he thought it right.
For years we beat each other black and blue
certain it would always be this way,
certain we’d soon grow old. When our forearms,
legs, or chests purpled by morning, we’d have
not only badges by which to measure our wills,
but something real, something crazed: splotches
on our resilient frames, starbursts of a rage
we didn’t know we owned, but somehow loved.