and after ten years
and three kids (two girls and a boy) that call me "uncle"
and two houses and three jobs and a medical degree
and an australian shepherd that they named after me when you
all relocated across the country to Boston
and i was still unmarried
he and i were driving back from a hockey game
and there was an accident.
a cross-country truck driver thought he saw a ghost
and he swerved into our lane
plowing through my beaten-down pickup and grabbing my passenger's life as
eighteen wheels and a cab passed through us
the sirens were still a few minutes away
his last words were "you're my brother. take care of them for me."
so i moved in
and three years and several hundred gallons of tears
--yours, mine, hers, hers, and his--
i bowed my head and offered you my grandmother's ring
which you slid on your finger like a ski mask,
hiding everything behind the glint of the stone
hiding everything but your eyes and lips
you cried a little
and we both knew why but pretended otherwise.
i was the closest thing to him that anyone had
so i did my best to close the gap
i changed my name
i went to med school and became a heart surgeon
i learned to play the banjo
i voted republican and listened to talk radio
i wore mustard yellow sweaters and mud brown corduroys
i went to church every sunday
and never thought to more than kiss your forehead goodnight
before falling asleep on the couch in the den
while you wept yourself to slumber in the california king.
even in dreams
i didn't think the world was a bad enough place
to deserve not having him in it.
it needed that light.
it needed that sunshine.
i woke up alone
and found myself tossed between white sheets and gray ghosts
and nail-ridden walls painted flaky ivory
"i think i'm going to move home," i told the mirror.
"i need to get prepared.
one day, i may be needed."
i went back to sleep and dreamt of the march afternoon
shooting off the surface of utah lake
and it was so goddamn beautiful that my eyes opened
i went about the day
wondering what you were going to name your children
and what i'd get them for their first birthday(s).