For David

Gretchen Johnsen

My brother was born
slow and speechless,
an unfinished gesture. His reason
was just out of reach.
The frustration
was more than my father
could bear. He beat him
to set the words free. Stubborn words.
I can hear the cries all through the house.

I meant to rescue him. I did
in dreams, I buried him
in quilts of sleep until his cries
were quiet. Only my silence remained,
like a hidden axe.

(My dreams
have held me hostage. Violence blooms
and disappears.) My father has grown kind,
my brother survived. He remembers
nothing but love.

The words are mine. Too late.
I own this wound, as wide as home.


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