The 2River View 23.4 (Summer 2019)

Susan L. Leary

The Cleanest Sheet of Ice

Through the cleanest sheet of ice, I watch my brother drowning. He watches as I watch. Both of us hurt by winter—by water & wind & their shared set of teeth. My mouth stuffed shut with the whitest orchids. His eyes paled into the color of snow. This is what addiction will do. Will place your body & the body of the one you love in freezing temperatures & separate them with the cleanest sheet of ice. So clean, my brother & I can almost touch. Almost console one another. The ice ablaze with all that feeling. & how it never stops—not the water rushing, nor the earsplitting sounds of a grown man wailing. The sound of my brother drowning & not knowing how to die.

My Brother Can Say Some of the Prettiest Things

My brother can say some of the prettiest things. Can tell you about the water & the soft smack of the net. About the sound of the line unraveling into the mouth of the finest-looking snapper. All that sweetness in the ear, just for him. How the sound of it barrels into the grit of his blistering palms. In them, the sound of who gets to live.

Like I said, my brother can say some of the prettiest things. My brother, whose hands fidget together like loose puppets across his lap. Who sells food stamps for Roxicodone. Returns to us sporadically & goes unshowered for days. My brother, who leaves in the toilet the basest remnants of a body. His mother, who splits the skin of her fingers to clean it.

But my brother can say some of the prettiest things. Can tell you what evening smells like in the middle of nowhere. The way the lungs open to that scent of stillness between a man & nothing but the earth. All that sky accumulating, just for him. How the smell of it draws near the most hidden parts of night even the stars had forgotten. That now in those stars, something heroic.

Except my brother has no home & no work. My brother, who carries the dirt of an entire city in his beard & pretends he wants to change. You see, my brother can teach the sad irony of people who say the prettiest things. But I can teach you the sadder irony of people who hear them. Like each time in parting, when he tells me he loves me & I believe it.

Susan L. Leary has appeared in journals such as The Christian Century, Gone Lawn, and Into the Void. Her chapbook This Girl, Your Disciple is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. web site

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