My stepbrother: who might not be in heaven.

Whose body didn’t know which way to swim


from that wreck, after his new girlfriend’s Kia

flipped, slid into the Platte, and sank five feet


under. Who had not cuss words but air bubbles

spilling out from his mouth. He swam the way


he thought was up – but it wasn’t, so he swam

the way that was back down. So he drowned.


He was sensitive, like me, is what they’d said

that night, when Dad called him a pussy and


he’d cried. If each memory gets its own room

in a big orange house, I’d want to put this one


in a safe place – high in the attic, where Stephen

liked to sleep: he’d drawn all these pentagrams


with white-out on the rafters, and we’d stretched

our arms up, linked fingers, and roared like dogs


snarling spells in the name of Lucifer. Whose

name – he taught me – means bringer of dawn.



Originally published in North American Review