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I Just Know He’s My Brother

May 18, 2012

even branches, by Julia Klatt Singer

They are running tethered together

One blind, one sighted

Stride by stride, two men, moving as one.

Like the way birds fly, wing tip to wing

tip, they move as though they share

not only the same air, but the same thought.

Flowers bloom–whole fields of them–

Frogs croak in chorus.  Even branches

Know to sway, in much the same way

as the one above or below them.

What I wouldn’t give tonight to know

What wind, what song, what yearning

what kind world, what beginning, what

abandon I belong to.


The scene is the field behind the church.  A comfortable Summer evening, church picnic with lots of games, lots of hot dish, cold salads and things off the grill.  Little games for the little kids.  Big games for the big kids.  Impromptu games for those who think they are bigger than that or cannot decide whether they are a big kid or a little kid, or wishing they could be both, even if they are neither.

I get pelted with a water balloon from a precocious Lisa Dahl.  I intend to retaliate, as I believe is her intention.  I am faster and a better aim and pelt her twice in the middle of the back with balloons that do not burst, much like the utopia of the distraction of a picnic from the fire and brimstone that is easily recalled inside the church walls.

Games.  We are obligated to the gunny sack race, the spoon and water relay, lawn darts.

Pastor prays before we eat.  Little children, fidgety men, and a couple of the gossipy ladies peak during the invocation.  I know what mother brought to the pot luck and promise to try the dishes others shared.

That year, my brother Michael is 20.  I am five years older.  We hover moments before the three-legged race, not with much intention, me reluctant to participate, but am vulnerable to the faint persuasions. I am not sure how much Michael wants to play, but I am guessing he wants to more than I do, wants to with more interest than his big brother, but as they begin to make the pairs, soon our legs are lashed together, standing at the start line.

We are told to take our marks.  We are commanded to get set. We are ordered to GO.

Michael and I start out awkwardly.  Stumbling.  Lost stride.  This is not going to work.  We are not the same athlete. We are not the same person.  We are not going to win.  We are last.

All my siblings: I love them.  We are four very distinct people carrying different virtues of our forebears, different personalities, different qualities that people know from knowing our parents. We each look like one of our parents but all have different noses and very different ways of making it through the world.

Neither of my two sisters are there, far enough away to not have to navigate the prospect of a three-legged race we would rather not run.   Before the race starts, I have no idea of how Michael and I will navigate, have no idea of where we will be when someone says “GO!” whether I will be in the race or comfortably on the sidelines, glad to let someone else have the fun, glad to be by myself.  I don’t understand how Michael and I were roped into the race, roped together, in that space. I did not need to know.

I also don’t understand how or why or see the moment when we suddenly broke into the most synchronized stride–running almost as if we were the same person, not just children of the same womb and sire.

We pass the other runners, outpace them by enough so that at the finish line, they have full views of our backs.

I can’t explain the feeling, that sudden burst of speed, whether it was his speed or mine, whether we began to hear the same drummer–what stride we fell into.  I don’t know what to say; I don’t know why.  I just know he’s my brother.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2012 9:25 pm

    Wonderful riff about family and body memory–and I like the poem by Julia as an opener. I find that I tilt my head to one side the way my Norwegian grandmother always did–and so does my brother. Since she helped raise us, it’s probably no surprise.

  2. Michael permalink
    May 19, 2012 7:39 pm

    Neat Clarence thanks for sharing that.


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