Brother, Brother

by Meghan McClure

There are plenty of things I never had  & miss. There have been times I've forgotten  your name & had to improvise with words ––     branch, broken, briar . Other times I miss nothing,  forget by force the way you left  holes in walls in every house.    There were hours spent on the carpet  with my encyclopedias looking for the right thing to know  or say to make you like me. One time    you let me paint your toenails deep blue  while we listened to music you chose  when we still had the same hair & friends.    Years before that, we stood on the beach feeding seagulls  Pringles from the can our mom brought for lunch,  laughing at all the shit raining down,    we ran into the ocean when we got caught  & I don't remember what made us get out ––   brackish, breathy, brimming .    In Maine we played like idiot seals  in the winter ocean, our feet numb but still  taking turns breaking waves until we were called home.    We live by different oceans now  & a bottle from mine would never find yours,  but bottles find us both    like when you were a baby & choked  & the ambulances came roaring in  to turn your blue face pink again.    The ocean was one thing, easy to name,  but what do we call this expanse?   Brace, break, bruise ?    It is no longer sensible to call you, Brother.  It is no longer sensible to call you  brother   even when I want to relate to something.    When I think of your bones  on the x-ray screen in another country  in front of a doctor you can’t understand    I know exactly how those bones feel,  broken & named in a language they can’t recognize.  I give up on finding new words for you.    Some days I wish I was a wall, a bottle, an ocean,  something for you to break. And on the other hand  I want to be your fist. Or the sound after impact.    I practice saying  Brother, Brother  so I won’t be caught  off-guard next time someone asks who & where I’m from.  Is the word sister easier to remember? What do you call me instead?


Meghan McClure is author of the chapbook Portrait of a Body in Wreckages (Newfound Press, 2017) and co-author of A Single Throat Opens (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Tupelo Quarterly, American Literary Review, Pithead Chapel, American Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in California.