When I am three, I doze in front of the motor
of the refrigerator before we take you to school.
You are white shirts and blue pants,
footfalls. Someone will pick me up, blanket and all.
When I am ten, you are in the Navy
dismissed in three months,
but I think you are gone for good.
I sleep in your room, rock posters,
a name carved on the windowsill.
I’ve been dreaming of the future.
At thirteen, I write an essay
about the importance of education.
You go to work before the sun comes up.
The door slamming wakes me.
You work on a line; I vow
to work with words.
When I am twenty-five,
you shouldn’t be here anymore.
I just need a place to crash but you
have broken everything you’ve touched.
The house shakes in the morning
when you wretch. It’s like thunder.
You are skin and bones,
addiction in fast forward.
You come sit on my bed and tell me
When I am thirty, I am in the room with you
using my words to make them look closer.
They mend the tiny tear in your heart
and we take you home again.
But that’s a lie. You’re still waiting in the ER
like the boy who cried wolf
and I am at my desk when they call to tell me
that you are gone for good.
When he is three, my son wakes up crying.
There’s a man in his room.
I’ve put his crib where your bed used to be.
When he’s tall enough to reach the window
he’ll read your name there
but for now I carry him downstairs in a blanket
his head on my shoulder.
I always was the lucky one.