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By Lydia A. Cyrus
Baby brother tells a lie
about his pain. It sounds
like a testimony in church. He raises
his hands in defense of his lie: they are covered
in soot. The smell of tobacco
haunts across hours, state lines.
He will not come back.
His gas masks hung around his neck,
his shield. As he faces other masks, waiting.
He tore down houses when he was home,
now the home is torn apart. The big island swims
between foreign soils: right in the middle.
He cries when it’s time to leave. If he had stayed
after Christmas, he would have missed the false alarm.
How does the grit feel
under foot, between fingers? Why lie
to me, brother? Have we not feared
the same launches and departures?
He calls the witching, his own
time to mourn the service.
The bar stool knows his absence
the way I do: brother and sister
parted by the sea. He is a transplant.
The beer bottles
are still behind our grandmother’s house.
I can see the trucks, the rifles
how they aim in the dark.
Shooting wild pigs under
the fronds of palm trees. Then they eat
the meat they riddled with bullets.
He would not admit guilt
Zinnias are annuals, so they grow
for one season, but do not
come back. You should grow
zinnias from seed, as they do
not like to be transplanted and
do not often thrive.