How To Watch Your Brother Die
This is a poem by Michael Lassell, it’s hard to read (emotionally, not as in actually reading) but it’s a good way to spend the few minutes it takes
When the call comes, be calm.
Say to your wife, “My brother is dying. I have to fly to California.”
Try not to be shocked that he already looks like a cadaver.
Say to the young man sitting by your brother’s side, “I’m his brother,”
Try not to be shocked when the young man says,
“I’m his lover. Thanks for coming.”
Listen to the doctor with a steel face on.
Sign the necessary forms.
Tell the doctor you will take care of everything.
Wonder why doctors are so remote.
Watch the lover’s eyes as they stare into your brother’s eyes as they stare into space.
Wonder what they see there.
Remember the time he was jealous and opened your eyebrow with a sharp stick.
Forgive him out loud even if he can’t understand you.
Realize the scar will be all that’s left of him.
Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria say to the lover, “You’re an extremely good-looking young man.”
Hear him say,
“I never thought I was good looking enough to deserve your brother.”
Watch the tears well up in his eyes. Say,
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what it means to be the lover of another man.”
Hear him say,
“It’s just like a wife, only the commitment is deeper because the odds against you are so much greater.”
Say nothing, but take his hand like a brother’s.
Drive to Mexico for unproven drugs that might help him live longer.
Explain what they are to the border guard.
Fill with rage when he informs you,
“You can’t bring those across.”
Begin to grow loud.
Feel the lover’s hand on your arm, restraining you. See in the guard’s eye how much a man can hate another man.
Say to the lover, “How can you stand it?”
Hear him say, “You get used to it.”
Think of one of your children getting used to another man’s hatred.
Call your wife on the telephone. Tell her,
“He hasn’t much time.
I’ll be home soon.” Before you hang up say,
“How could anyone’s commitment be deeper than a husband and wife?” hear her say,
“Please, I don’t want to know all the details.”
When he slips into an irrevocable coma, hold his lover in your arms while he sobs, no longer strong. Wonder how much longer you will be able to be strong.
Feel how it feels to hold a man in your arms whose arms are used to holding men.
Offer God anything to bring your brother back.
Know you have nothing God could possibly want.
Curse God, but do not abandon Him.
Stare at the face of the funeral director when he tells you he will not embalm the body for fear of contamination. Let him see in your eyes how much a man can hate another man.
Stand beside a casket covered in flowers, white flowers.
Say, “Thank you for coming” to each of several hundred men who file past in tears, some of them holding hands.
Know that your brother’s life was not what you imagined.
Overhear two mourners say, “I wonder who’ll be next.”
Arrange to take an early flight home.
His lover will drive you to the airport.
When your flight is announced say, awkwardly, “If I can do anything, please let me know.”
Do not flinch when he says,
“Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him after he told you. He did.”
Stop and let it soak in. Say,
“He forgave me, or he knew himself?”
“Both”, the lover will say, not knowing what else to do. Hold him like a brother while he kisses you on the cheek. Think that you haven’t been kissed by a man since your father died. Think,
“This is no moment not to be strong.” Fly first class and drink scotch. Stroke your split eyebrow with a finger and think of your brother alive.
Smile at the memory and think how your children will feel in your arms, warm and friendly and without challenge.