One day after my eleventh birthday,
I walked home to see my mother ringed
by aunts in the kitchen, all crying.
An aunt sent me up to my bedroom.

Three days later, I witnessed
my older brother lowered into the earth.
I was never told how he died.
It didn’t seem my place to ask.

Leo, they said, was on the cusp of greatness.
Handsome and daring and courageous.
He sounded to my boy’s ears
many times my father’s better.

Years later, my older cousin assured me
that my brother was no suicide,
as a neighbor (whose son had taken his life)
had suggested. It was a terrible accident.

He was twenty-one and at law school and
just beginning to ascend. Something in me
always rejoiced that he didn’t live to midlife
with weekend golf outings and a beer belly.

He remains framed forever at twenty-one.
A portrait upon which anyone who knew him
can hang whatever hopes and dreams
they learned to give up on, onto him.

 

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Poet’s Notes:

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