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Three Poems  photo

My Brother’s Two Screams 

I heard two screams from my bedroom. Outside,
my brother had killed his best friend. That day 
the clouds stayed put. The trees swayed under 
gentle winds, but not enough to disturb the birds, 
and the sun shined so brightly on the cars. I remember 
thinking it’s rare that passion and proximity correlate 
so strongly. My brother and I lived so close for so long 
in the house, but the passion we had for each other came 
in waves, cooled to familiarity that remained even if 
it dulled when we both left the house. Each day 
we spent in each other’s presence after that was
a discovery, not quite on edge but never without one. 
We tip-toed up to remembering what we forgot 
we’d always know about the other, calling each other 
the names no one in our adult lives would know, 
but not knowing what to say having used them.
Would you eat a salad if I fixed one? Is that how you eat? 
My brother killed his best friend with a word or two 
I couldn’t hear. He fell so slowly into the street.
When his body finally hit the concrete, it burst into
a tidal wave, the broth of which split in two and rushed
in opposite directions. The asphalt drank my brother’s 
friend through small cracks it made on its surface. 
I stayed outside watching, thinking they would close
when my brother’s friend had gone completely, 
but vines crept through and kept them open. 
They spiraled as high as my knees, bloomed blue 
and red-orange flowers, and I thought, at least 
he got it easier, at least he could go on being all the things 
one can be in this life when they’re no longer a friend 
to my brother. My brother’s words couldn’t kill me. 
Sometimes I wonder if it’s my fault my brother 
doesn’t share words with me before knowing better.
Perhaps there aren’t any. I guess I should be grateful. 

Hell’s Wide Net 

I cast a wide net in Hell for my brother. 
I was both the person who held the net 
and the bait inside it, my arms craning 
back and throwing forward, letting 
the string reel through my hands,
and holding it against the current 
when it landed. The Hell he swam in 
and his swimming and my pouring in 
a kind of nourishment, and that, 
whether good or bad. In the past,
the ambiguity had always done the trick.
I told myself the difference Hell made 
was that this time, make or burn, 
it would be the same to both of us.
I’d hoped to lure my brother in
knowing I wasn’t what he wanted
while knowing I was all I had 
toward that purpose. He wouldn’t 
want Hell more. I wouldn’t have 
to trap him as much as bring him home.
I was always afraid when we were little,
wanting to go where he went but still 
afraid to pursue the violence, being told 
not to follow him. That trained-in anxiety 
never left me in my older age, in Hell. 
I couldn’t be abandoned for never being 
with him. He taught me there’s so much else 
in the world to be with. I don’t think 
he understood. I followed him so closely
back then because the world was one 
I didn’t recognize when I couldn’t see him.

The World at its Beginning 

I suppose every Hell is one 
the Earth has already enacted. 
We’re told
little of the Earth 
was unfrozen 
during the Ice Ages,
that the world’s origins 
were molten, 
those swirling flames 
still running deep 
below the surface
and at the core,
that the bacteria 
crowning the round runs 
of the vents
shooting water and sulfur up 
from the sea floor
most resemble 
the organisms that rose 
the world’s 
flesh endowed 
life forms, 
and that the first 
of the world’s green lands 
had a wildness of abundance 
we humans cut back 
over hundreds of years 
to make us comfortable, 
to give us a culture 
we’d come to document 
at least as much 
as we lived. 
There wasn’t a time 
I didn’t have
a brother. By the time 
my eyes opened, 
he was already here, 
but there’s so little 
time between us,
he also can’t remember 
a time before me.
Our origins blur 
into a single birth 
between us
and so between us 
is a world
and its beginning. 
I tell myself
there’s not a world 
without my brother in it. 
I tell myself 
I’d follow him anywhere 
to keep the world 
from ending. 


image: Kristin Chen