I was only four years old then.
I learned it last night when I heard,
for the first time, the whole story
told by my big brother.
He pared me back to a point
at the wake, after he had a few shots
too many (for me) and had finely
keened his whetted tongue, to find the run
of himself like a river in full spate, or a poem.
I told him, through a burning salary of blind
tears, that my childhood was lived
in an even darker fear, from that day on.
I had overheard what our father said
to threaten him with, to terrify him, for 'stealing'
a little metal pencil sharpener from another boy
in school. He had brought it home
in his satchel. He said that he had just turned six
at that time. His name is Joe.
I remembered he even made him pack his bag
for the scary ‘Boy’s Home’, and let him sleep on it.
My big gentle mother was silent, I recalled.
Perhaps her silence, and her manner,
softened him so that she could find a way
to get through later — to get him to let Joe stay?
Joe was my eyes, my lifeline, and always
two years older than me — the fifth one.
I followed after him as I do now, as I listen
acutely. I hear him carry our mother, feet first
(on gravel), or rather his quarter-share of that silent
weight, that is more like thirty-five percent
at the heavier end, from this sharpened rear view —
the less-gradually-tapered blunt end, so to speak.
I ponder what it's like, for men to shoulder
a dead, mute, mother. I imagine my quaternity
of brothers bearing the sealed pine box, that contains
her spent body, to the re-opened pit. I think I smell
the paid-out straps burn, as they lower it in, then hear
a big hollow thud, as she resounds over the top
of him — loudly on top of him, for the first time ever.