Rick Hilles
My Brother, The Poet, At Nineteen

If you were to ask him yourself, he’d say
Nothing probably, but anyone who knows him
Would tell you—once they knew you were alone—
That my brother is a poet, the poet they know.
Sure, he slings drinks for them all night
At the bar where he’s their favorite bartender
(Even two decades later). The older couples bring him
Homemade treats, tickets to ballgames—the best seats.
And it’s not that he goes out of his way to
Befriend the regulars, it’s just that they have
(As some have explained) all fallen for him.
Maybe it’s the way he listens to them
Cry into their drinks, and how he laughs with them
At God and the wrong world. He listens
Like a nurse dispensing reliable cures
With a smile and just enough bedside manner
To show the depths of his genius for empathy.
But that’s not even the half of it.
They love him because they’ve come to know
Him, end of story. But as his brother
There are things I can add, too, beyond the ways
He’s taught me to listen and see the world with him.
Like one time, when I helped him to bed,
After getting him drunk on his nineteenth birthday,
(Don’t worry: it was legal then!) and when I turned
To leave, he asked me something, and I saw he was
Weeping, and when I asked him what’s wrong, he said,
“Would we even know each other
If we weren’t brothers?”

In the Book of Spells

In the book of old spells—some promising
to bring rain while others assure safe passage
for our dead, from here to whatever’s next—
I search for words that might help us now,
past curses