How to Go to Dinner with a Brother on Drugs (excerpt)
If he’s wearing knives for eyes,
if he’s dressed for a Day of the Dead parade—
three-piece skeleton suit, cummerbund of ribs—
his pelvic girdle will look like a Halloween mask.
The bones, he’ll complain, make him itch. Each ulna
a tingle. His mandible might tickle.
If he cannot stop scratching, suggest that he change,
but not because he itches—do it for the scratching,
do it for the bones.
Okay, okay, he’ll give in, I’ll change.
He’ll go back upstairs, and as he climbs away,
his back will be something else—one shoulder blade
a failed wing, the other a silver shovel.
He hasn’t eaten in years. He will never change.
Be some kind of happy he didn’t appear dressed
as a greed god—headdress of green quetzal feathers,
jaguar loincloth littered with bite-shaped rosettes—
because tonight you are not in the mood
to have your heart ripped out. It gets old,
having your heart ripped out,
being opened up that way.
Your brother will come back down again,
this time dressed as a Judas effigy.
I know, I know, he’ll joke. It’s not Easter. So what?
Be straight with him. Tell him the truth.
Tell him, Judas had a rope around his neck.
When he asks if an old lamp cord will do, just shrug.
He’ll go back upstairs, and you will be there,
close enough to the door to leave, but you won’t.
You will wait, unsure of what you are waiting for.
Wait for him in the living room
of your parents’ home-turned-misery-museum.
Visit the perpetual exhibits: Someone Is Tapping
My Phone, Como Deshacer a Tus Padres,
Jesus Told Me To, and Mon Frère—
ten, twenty, forty dismantled phones dissected
on the dining table: glinting snarls of copper,
sheets of numbered buttons, small magnets,
jagged, ruptured shafts of lithium batteries,
empty 2-liters of Diet Coke with dirty tubing snaking
from the necks, shells of Ataris, radios, television sets,
and the Electrolux, all cracked open like dark nuts,
innards heaped across the floor.
And your pick for Best of Show:
Why Dad Can’t Find the Lightbulbs—
a hundred glowing bells of gutted lightbulbs,
each rocking in a semicircle on the counter
beneath Mom’s hanging philodendron.
Your parents’ home will look like an al-Qaeda
yard sale. It will look like a bomb factory,
which might give you hope, if there were
such a thing. You are not so lucky—
there is no fuse here for you to find...
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