my brother, aging in reverse
for Tannerif prison is a country, let it break open like a clock on the hour. an escape of green eyes taken like child support, german-headed, and arguing for the past. innocence has nothing to do with it. my brother, born at the edge of summer, totters and falls. our mother screams about paternity from the back of a pick-up truck and i am not there. my brother’s face is handsome and young and he turns eighteen and i am not there. the borders of his story are embellished by my voice. i am not invited. terra nullius in this poem, a prison is a border of barbed wire and braided hair. our sister drives him there. the prairie splits like rubber on a tire, burns in front of our low-income townhouse. the car windows crack in the cold like a wooden bat on the wall, missing my brother’s brother’s head. those people, they just wanted to protect us but we hurt instead. we hurt and try on different clothes, new cities. my brother on his way to visit his father in prison. we don’t talk about it. i don’t know if he will go. i just know the sweetgrass i gave my sister, tied with orange yarn, resting on her dash for good luck. what happens when you are given what you never had? a gun in the backseat, no seatbelts, two AM drug run from kenora. this is a story i don’t remember. this is the story i’m told. my brother in the background, a baby. he ages in reverse. his lips split open on new teeth and he looks so old. if his story is a country, i settled there. i was bitten by mosquitoes and brought back this poem.
Glennys Egan on “my brother, aging in reverse” by Brandi Bird
Bird’s piece is a powerful exploration of the borders, real and metaphorical, drawn amongst a family by colonial violence. Yet, love persists throughout, steadfast even in the speaker of the poem’s absence and evoking the tender desire to care for one’s kin like a child, no matter their age.