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Fiction

Ode to My Brother’s Sadness

The first draft of this poem was written in a haze of grief not long after my brother took his life in 2010. The only thing I could do to keep functioning at the time was take refuge in writing, and so I scribbled these verses down without thought to form. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, the music of R.E.M. was, and still is, a balm for my soul—something soothing about the bright tones that also carry undercurrents of sadness and dissatisfaction—and references to R.E.M. lyrics found their way into this piece as well.

F.A.

he walked in old boots and shivered
because you were with him like an animal
that didn’t want to be touched
some teeth
looking thin

my brother shot himself in the pine trees
beside his house
because he had some time alone
and he couldn’t tell time or tell
anyone anything

your tongue gorges and tells too many lies
infatuations that never blossom or that burn
heatless dripping candy-colored
wax on furniture

he knew the elbowrooms and secret
rambling mind of bees about distance
and no one had time
for his blanched and careless words
about things he’d do someday
R.E.M. professed
to know him better than he knew himself
like the time in the backseat of a car behind a vacant
house he tore his shirt as she fucked him drunk
the speaker crooning
I need this

why’d he have to let you in
the dragon
the warbler the weevil the coat
unfurling
a bullet’s crater

could’ve hugged could’ve said he is my brother
this is his face these are his limbs this is his voice
this is his way of leaning all his weight on one leg
and he carries a pistol this is my brother and
what a night that must have been
wracking his brain over the decision
the pleasantness of wind the aftertaste of an overcooked roast
the walk the useless watch the thought of mom at home watching television
the last panic trembling voice someone stop me

rain fell on him
the hot sting of a phantom limb
a shovel a leaf a feather
and then the night became an embarrassed creature
nothing lasts forever not
gold
perfume
pretty flowers
yet he gardened
orange roses like comets
under a black diamond sky

Franklin Ard

Franklin Ard is a graduate of Clarion West Writers Workshop and holds an MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. He is currently lead editor at Headless Hydra Press, a publisher of tabletop role-playing game supplements, and formerly served as editor-in-chief of Oracle Fine Arts Review and managing editor of Stonecoast Review. For over a decade, he has taught college-level writing in a variety of contexts, from beginner composition to doctoral dissertation writing, and he oversees the University of South Alabama’s Center for Academic Excellence. He and his wife, Stephanie, live in Mobile, Alabama, where they enjoy the humid frog weather. Find him online at www.franklinard.com and facebook.com/franklinardwriter.