Saturday morning, and I perch
on the top step of the back stairwell,
proud of a skill I've just mastered,
when my brother, pallid, comes into
the hallway, asks me to go see if,
finally, he can get up. OK, I say, but
first, "Look, I can tie my own shoes!"
I keep tying, untying, retying, until
I hear a thud, screams below. I run
down the stairs, laces flapping,
go through the pantry, stop
at the kitchen door, where he lies,
lips blue and open, not breathing.
Mom splashes water over his body
to bring him to. He does not stir.
Someone shouts, "Out, get out!"
I'm shoved into the living room,
told to kneel at the couch, be quiet,
pray. I don't know what to pray for
but do know how to look prayerful.
My knuckles turn white, the carpet
scratches my knees, and when I ask,
in a whisper, "What's happening?"
get shushed. The grandfather clock
goes gong…gong…gong…and after
many gongs more everyone but one
comes back from the hospital.
"He's dead," they say. It sounds
funny, like, "Bang, bang, you're dead!"
I giggle, then, ashamed, bow my head.
When mom comes in, looking like
a ghost, I know she'll never really care,
that I can tie my own shoes.