What might it have accomplished,
had both of them continued playing the drums?
The soundproof room in the basement
held the beaten snares, dimpled cymbals,
the dread they hammered out of themselves
in rotating shifts. You know, a good amount
goes dormant without ever being tested,
like a trillium too worried to bloom.
They’d have had it another way, perhaps.
May have manned their respective stations
without souring the whole stream
—it slowed to a trickle, I tell you—
like after the fistfight in the kitchen
that sent the women to their corners
as spiders scrambling behind appliances
to recover some vital afterthought.
We just scurried, I tell you
I was hushed to my room
as my brother called out his fear,
and who knows whether that was the first
or the last time, except him, and maybe our father
who offered nothing but a shake of the head,
hands up not in surrender
but a signal to halt.
TRAFFIC ON THE RIDE TO MITCHELL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Five hours and twenty bucks will get you
a bump-touch truck ride with three pit stops.
Sideways glances at a mess of ephedrine,
fingertips tap double bass to pop radio.
Your legs twitch and I wonder
if you’ve ever been shot or stabbed. Funny thing
not to know about a brother. Maybe
the impact would have sputtered the words
up or even out. Your eyes look uncomfortable
being open. You get smaller, and the losing parts
melt into recollection of a concrete
120° summer. The detail
you repeat: the deep hole smell of
garbage and what humans leave, discarded
dinner, greasy napkins, thumbs smelling of trash.
You’ve got a whole troop buried in a pill
box, air holes hammered through. You left
the gun at the discharge station. You left
the rest in a black plastic bag, floating in night air,
you can just glimpse it—if you would just open
your eyes. Your mouth half-lives, telling
somewhere the story about the grinning boy.
VETERAN’S DAY (2)
It’s not that it was
for nothing, it's just that you
used to be a whole
boy. I remember your face:
teeth flashing wide as you danced.
Originally from Wisconsin, Sara Joy Márquez has moonlighted as a farmer, butcher, and food educator. She is currently working on her first book-length manuscript, in which she examines her older brother’s experience serving in the United States Army. She is particularly interested in post-traumatic stress disorder and its reverberations within her brother’s life, their family and their community. Márquez is due to complete her MFA from Columbia University later this summer. She resides in Brooklyn, and works in book publishing and the food industry.