“After My Step-Brother Gets Shot and Killed by Cops in Milwaukee” by Michael Meyerhofer

Michael Meyerhofer


The day after she sees her son
dragged from the street like roadkill,
my step-mother returns to work.
My father tries to stop her,
afraid she might end up serving
the same men they saw on the news,
implacable Confederate statues
finally granted an excuse to open
their holsters—but right now,
she’d rather hear the cash register
than her own heartbeat.
And so for hours, she fills bags
with sandwiches plumed in lettuce
and tiny cauldrons of broth,
black forks with brittle tines,
white napkins that stain so easily,
pausing sometimes to dab her eyes
or silence a buzzing phone.
Strangers ask if she’s all right.
Just something I’m dealing with,
she says, then takes what they give
and returns what they’re owed.

from Poets Respond
March 5, 2023


Michael Meyerhofer: “I have no idea how to describe what it’s like to see your own step-brother lying dead on TV—the same shy, good-natured guy I first met a few years ago on a family trip to Las Vegas (he was excited because he’d never been on a plane before), and who was looking forward to getting his life back together after making some mistakes when he was younger. But this poem mostly ended up being about my step-mom, who actually went back to work the day after it happened—partially because she couldn’t bear the silence and grief at home (this is also only a few months after my biological brother lost his battle against leukemia), and partly because this is America, and like it or not, there are always bills to pay.” (web)

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