It is plain that he could not have known who it was in that moonless,
midnight hour, with not a light in the streets, or in the windows,
and they under the shadow of the awning. Matilda Fletcher
Rockford, Illinois, 1905-1909
In the morning I work
to speak. Alone in my room
I breakfast with toast and coffee.
The words I need must be wrought.
I list the lecture topic in ink.
My brother’s pinched mouth,
an ear closed around a cannon’s roar,
old eyes that won’t see.
My brother prefers his age,
what myopia and deafness offer,
a shield. His body’s strength
to lift and carry remains.
Do I really know the man
he has become? The boy
he was, I remember.
His boots kicked dust
as he watched the blacksmith
bend steel into shape,
scythes, pitchforks, and blades,
for our farm and for profit.
My brother apprenticed
in the craft, learned the heated secrets
of points and turns, the polished finish
to keep hands from breaking too soon.
I get up for a second cup of coffee
and return to what I must say before others.
My brother remembers the battlefield
and its scars, but he is not a murderer.
I stop. The ink blots the page.
For another hour I try, The Trial
and Imprisonment. Today, I fail.
I choke. There’s a pain in my throat.