Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Asking for My Younger Brother

This is a poem that touches me for a reason that I can’t explain at all. The raw emotion is simply overwhelming.

By Franz Wright

I never did find you.
I later heard how you'd wandered the streets
for weeks, washing dishes before you got fired;
taking occasional meals at the Salvation Army
with the other diagnosed. How on one particular night
you won four hundred dollars at cards:
how some men followed you and beat you up,
leaving you unconscious in an alley
where you were wakened by police
and arrested for vagrancy, for being tired
of getting beaten up at home.
I'd dreamed you were dead,
and started to cry.
I couldn't exactly phone Dad.
I bought a pint of bourbon
and asked for you all afternoon in a blizzard.
In hell
Dante had words with the dead,
they had no bodies
and he could not touch them, nor they him.
A man behind the ticket counter
in the Greyhound terminal
pointed to one of the empty seats, where
someone who looked like me sometimes sat down
among the people waiting to depart.
I don't know why I write this.
With it comes the irrepressible desire
to write nothing, to remember nothing;
there is even the desire
to walk out in some field and bury it
along with all my other so-called
poems, which help no one--
where each word will blur
into earth finally,
where the mind that voiced them
and the hand that took them down will.
So what. I left
the bus fare back
to Sacramento with this man,
and asked him
to give it to you.

I guess this poem is so great (to me) because it really touches a nerve. The speaker so obviously feels a pain that he cannot explain, a pain that haunts him enough to leave bus fare for a younger brother that he doesn’t even know. And the apostrophe, the fact that he’s speaking directly to his brother—the impact that has is incalculable. If this were a story about his brother, that’d be one thing; but the fact that this is a letter to his brother makes this so much more personal and, thus, more powerful.

My brother is my best friend (besides my wife). We have a great relationship despite the fact that he is as opposite from me as a person gets. To put it mildly, I’m a long, straight, gray line while he’s a curvy, crooked flash of a thousand colors. I’m married, have a steady job, a nice house, three pets, and am hoping for kids relatively soon. He’s… loving life. And because we’re so different, I worry about him not being happy. I’m a very empathetic person (though I try my best not to let it show), and it makes me sad to think that someone that I care about (and there aren’t that many of those people running around) could be sad. So this poem, this speaker, really hits a nerve with me. He loves his brother though the brother is long lost.

I hope I never know that feeling of loss and sadness, though I’m sure I will at some point in my life. Everyone does. I’ve just been very lucky so far. And poems like this remind me of that.


F.W. said...

Thank you for this. F.W.

Joe said...

Okay... Did Franz Wright really just make a comment on my blog????

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