Cousin Josh on Family

by Anders Carlson-Wee

Featured Art: A Lizard, Jamaica by Frederic Edwin Church

You ever had some loose screw try to tell you
your friends is the family you choose?
Well I wouldn’t bottle the breath of the minister
that delivered the message. The family you got
is the only family you’re gonna get,
take it or leave it. Wanna know what I got?
I got myself sisters. Two of em. But that’s all I got
to say about that. That’s all I ever knew
to say about my sisters: There’s two of em.
I bet I coulda stomached a brother better.
Even when I was a little grommet I wanted
a brother, so I practiced on this pet lizard I had.
He was one of them color-changers that could
change his skin to blend in with whatever’s
below him. I named him Tony and took him
around with me. Showed him how to do
whatever I was doin. Talked to him and tried
to explain things. I remember wearin tie-dyed shirts
and puttin Tony on my shoulder so I could
watch him change. One day I had him on the back
of my hand while I was hot-wheelin down the street
and he jumped off and I ran right over him.

What do you say about something like that?
Afterwards he was so flat he looked like one of them
outlines of a lizard in a coloring book. No blood
or nothin, like nothin was in him. I’ll be damned
if I know what else to say about that.
I don’t even know why I told you about it.
Would you believe me if I said I never got over it?
Never got over the fact that when he died
he was the color of my hand? You think that’s funny?
I can’t even look at a goddamn lizard anymore.

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of The Low Passions (W.W. Norton, 2019), a New York Public Library Book Group Selection. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, BuzzFeed, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other publications. The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, he is the winner of the 2017 Poetry International Prize. Anders is represented by Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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