Cynthia J. Hollenbeck
—thanks to Marie Howe
Praise to my older brother, sixteen-year-old man sequestered
in the attic, exiled namesake of my father, grown harsh
in his confinement, resigned to his evening task of pounding
the hell out of a drum set. His cymbals gleamed beneath
a bare bulb and he was as hard as the drumsticks he held,
waved in the air like semaphore flags, thrown to the drums
with a crash. Tower dweller, younger version of my father,
praise to the man who turned the other cheek to our step-mother’s
steely fist, beat the skins with so much force he was nearly deaf,
so when she stomped up the attic stairs, he never heard her pass
through the hallway before she hollered, Stop the fucking drumming!
He skulked to the spare room, lifted a Playboy from the stacks
and scanned its glossy pages, wondered who on the streets
might pay for girlie mags so he could, at the very least, eat.
Not until the house went dark did my brother creep down
from his bedroom in the sky. I know it pained him to knock
on my door and say good-bye—again. And when he drew
his skinny arm around my shoulder, I wonder if he knew
I’d leave too if I weren’t so afraid—
whatever thrashed inside him made him go.
Assistant to the Director of Catering at Best Western
Talking River Review, Fugue, The Ledge, Stirring, etc.
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