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The Whole Game The Family Could Play

In Memory of Brooke Bennett

 

Grateful

For my brother

 

In the village, when the news broke

Of the sixth grade girls, ambushed

In the woods on heir way to school

Raped, tortured, the one surviving

Staggering naked onto the tracks so bloody

The trainmen thought the head to toe red

Was a garment

A local friend, by way of explanation,

Spilled a couple of wisecracks

What makes a woman beautiful?
Jelly Doughnuts and incest.

 

The boys had been named

Who'd dragged the mattresses into the woods

The guns, the dirty mattresses, the axes

And waited. The whole town knew about these boys.

The whole town knew the families

In which those boys were learning this was sex

The one, in which-the whole town knew

The son practiced on his sister,

With his dad. And that silent

Little girl? I know what she thought, day,

Night; another thing to get used to,

Growing up.

II

Once, as a child, in a iron lung of dread

The long years of your absence, I told

The priest in confession, the priest Father Welch

Who came to watch the Sox and drink iced tea

He told me to mind my father.

To Obey.

So I put my soul to bed by itself,

So far away that as a woman I still can't find it

And waited to grow up, to be a person

In the Great World, where men would be

As safe as dogs.  But brother,

Each line and verse I learned augmented

Those seeds of dread, to one Great Wood

To interlocking branches. Though I often prayed

For you to come home and get me

Looking back, I'm grateful

For what kept you from the whole game the family could play.

Robed, studying to be a priest, you were learning,

Books illumined in gold, the statues of the overarching code, what,

In other words, we both were spared

Your learning on your father's knee. On me.

                                                    Linda McCarriston