Still Life with Little Brother

by Joshua Bennett

Every time I attempt what I’m attempting
right now, it ends up as some sad lyric
about diagnosis & that sounds like

the one kind of violence I don’t have
a pretty name for. In advance, I don’t know
if this poem will bring the problem onstage

& then pretend it went away to college. I don’t know
if there is any way around the problem itself,
which is that I can only call something love

if it comes packaged in language I can feel
the weight of & my brother doesn’t always
look at me when I visit the house. Sometimes

he walks in & sits on the couch & watches
TV while I’m watching TV & our shared
thereness is a prize. Sometimes he asks

about me when I’m gone
& no one else ever does that.
Levi is my brother’s name

& I wrote a poem
about him once
& it wasn’t about him

as much as how fear stalks me
like an inheritance, how I fear
for him with all of my love,

how I know the world
like I know the names
of famous poets & the world

has claws, Levi. When you were born,
I ran back & forth across Auntie’s
apartment until the floorboards complained

& I am still like that. I am still more proud
than I am brave & you are still the great joy of
our rugged hometown, an outlaw all the same.

Please, excuse my shadow. I can’t
stop leaving. I don’t know how
to name what I don’t know

well enough to render
in a single sitting. Every poem
about us seems an impossible labor,

like forgetting the face
of the sea, or trying to find
a more perfect name for water.

Last updated October 17, 2022