Susan L. Leary
When we look to God, we mean to look head-on at what’s in our peripheral vision, but God is tied to the periphery by a taut string. As we glance to the right or left, God moves proportionally out of view. Why? we ask. The better question: How did the string come to be there?
When I dream of my brother, we sit side-by-side in a 1969 grabber blue Shelby. We talk normal talk, but my brother refuses to face me. As I turn towards him, he turns towards the window. As I turn back to the dash, so does he. We move in sync like this for hours.
It is the dreamer who dreams, but how do those who visit the dreamer come to be there? How does God or my brother begin to relax the string? At some point, I ask my brother to take me to the hospital or the morgue. It doesn’t matter which. I can’t, he says: You’re driving.
Only the Finest Track Stars Smoke Newports
Or so says my brother, all thinned-out muscle & magic trick, sliding onto the back porch with a shit-eating grin, when he halts, a pack of menthols flashed in textbook form. He makes a show of stretching the hamstrings & prepping his glutes, that is, of stretching the ghost of his boyhood into a god. Only the finest track stars smoke Newports, he says again. Boy slogan for a boy who believes it & surely this boy can impress, this mischievous boy who spins slogan into prayer, who, for a moment, is a little bit wise. As if for once he were saying, slow down—look at me. Look at this boy, pent-up with potential.
Poem in Which I Keyword Search “My Brother”
Give me a map of the world & I can find my brother anywhere. At 63 Brian Avenue in Dublin or in Eden District at Brothers Lake. According to legend, Brothers Lake was named for two brothers who drowned in the water’s hands on their way to church. One boy’s saving tied to two boys’ destruction. Days later, a procession of horses at the water’s edge carrying tiny coffins on their backs. Ask my brother & my brother will tell you he was to die young because he, too, was legend. He, too, proud & quiet in his suffering, a thousand empty bottles sunken into the frantic lake of his heart. & against the enfolding blue, the tragedy at Brothers Lake, was that the fate of the brothers or the fate of the water? A single hand grasping after its double. The last time I held my brother’s hands, he’d been in a refrigerator for days. For once, his cold & iron hands, the hands of a king. Hands I held in December as we lowered the ash of his body into the Gulf. Floating yellow blooms the new coordinates of a thing. & though I am low on faith, if asked where my brother is, I’ll tell you now I know, because just today I have died there three times already.
Susan L. Leary’s poetry has been published in such places as Arcturus (Chicago Review of Books), The Christian Century, Maudlin House, South Florida Poetry Journal, and Whale Road Review. She is the author of Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021) as well as the chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019), which was a finalist for The Heartland Review Press Chapbook Prize and a semi-finalist for the Elyse Wolf Prize. She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami.