“How We First Handled Brother” by Shaneen A. Harris

Shaneen A. Harris


This is 1988, we are black,
live in tenements, crazy
the only word to describe:
how “Da Butt” was a hit
song, Mike Tyson crashed
a Beamer and a Bentley—
how Brother bent over
the toilet, screamed,
the shit inside
was his intestine. None knew
of melancholy, mania
extreme. Bipolar didn’t mean
a thing—outside of T.V.,
couldn’t explain why Monday,
Brother played basketball
with friends. Wednesday,
tattooed hell on his skin.
Friday, he broke
his MVP trophies.
Saturday, he woke—
was Brother. Sunday,
he sat in a corner,
just etched help
me in the walls.
Maybe if we’d had
a white picket fence,
Jesse’d been elected president,
mental didn’t mean fragile,
survival didn’t equate
with strength, we’d have
been more confident—
named it, have treated him
different. But this is 1988.
That’s just shit. Crazy
is still a thing. The cure
for Brother: cover his scars
with salve, bond the broken
trophies, scrub scribble off
the walls, and pray
him to sleep.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018


Shaneen A. Harris: “I am a retired engineering and information technology professional who is thankful for a career that has now afforded me space to pursue what I love. Writing is a language of relationships. I hope to use mine to examine, create, and maintain connections with not only people but history.” (web)

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