My Good Brother

By Young Smith

Featured Art: Two Boys Watching Schooners by Winslow Homer, 1880

If I had a brother, he would be called Enoch or Ephraim—
a name alive with the wisdom of some long forgotten past.
Though older than me, there would be no gray yet in his beard.

There would be no lines on his face, and his full hair—
not thinning yet, like mine—would be brown as the wings
of a thrush. He would whisper Roethke in his sleep,

my brother Ephraim or Enoch, and his poetry would lift
the weight of old bruises from my eyes. He would visit
our father’s grave and feel none of my dark anger there.

He would sing the dead man’s favorite songs, recalling
only his happiest hours. He would have learned to live gently,
my brother, and would teach me that secret with nothing more

than a nod or a warm arm across my shoulders. You, Enoch; you,
Ephraim—how I long for the cool press of your hand on the back
of my neck, my good brother, my quiet companion of cruel nights.

Young Smith has received fellowships from the NEA and the Kentucky Arts Council. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Iowa Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, American Literary Review, Arts & Letters, Atlanta Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The New Orleans Review, and other publications. He is author of the collection, In a City You Will Never Visit, published by Greencup Books. He is an associate professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where he is a core faculty member with the Bluegrass Writers Studio, a low-residency MFA program.

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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