For my much-beloved brother


I cannot write about you yet, my brother.

Golden son our mother loves-
your red-rimmed eyes are always brimming,
have been brimming over since infancy
with what you leave unsaid.

Sorrow makes your lapis pupils vivid,
makes cracks along the forehead and jaw-line
of your kouros’ armored mask.

Each breath you clutch for enhances your beauty.

The body you tend well, fashion into a bulwark,
the muscles that bunch and slide beneath your skin,
has finally learned enough to darken
into a shield of bronze age leather.

When you were a child, doing what we do now,
a day at the beach, parched in afternoon sun-
your translucent flesh shone for a moment
with the light coming through it
before reddening suddenly and sloughing to wounds.

When the pus dried into bubbles and puckers,
our mother peeled away the layers in strips
which she piled in a flurry of leather
on the light green-colored coverlet
of her teak four-posted bed.

I watched your tearing face come loose in her hands.
Forehead, nose, eye-orbits, your lips in flakes,
bleeding drops onto the tongue you remain so careful with-
so cautious with words, you let nothing slip.

You trained your skin to darkness
through long exposure to the rays
of the miles-away, implacable sunlight of Kansas.
Building that bridge with your sweat in the cracks
with those other boys and men who laughed when you bled.

You studied theology in your room for an hour each night,
letting scorched layers accrue, ignoring the itching-
knowing at last the value of scabs.

Sitting here beside you, so close
our bodies are nearly touching,
I claw into the sand with my chewed nails
and tell you nothing you haven’t in some way
already said.

The sea and your eyes are matching in color.
Your tongue, finally loosened, and your eyes are red.

Your skin has hardened, a sheath like a kouros
tempered by long centuries spent buried in sand.
Cracked, with edges fractured, a fine nose gone-
It is no less beautiful for injury.

I still have no idea what comfort to give.
I will not peel the armor that keeps you connected,
times shifting mask.

Only, know this my broken, well-loved brother:
you are not wasted.
Skin suppurates, it bleeds, dries, dying,
and then it scabs.

The kouros that survive being buried
are all the more valued
once time has put an end to dying.
We savor their cracks.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on January 5, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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