Absence

My brother played catch with an oak tree,

tossing baseballs to the thick

palms of branches overhead.

 

Sometimes we heard him singing,

the weight of the ball swelling in his mitt.

 

These moments come like children running into a house

not their own. I watched him from my window,

his words barely Hebrew, his fingers dangling

wisteria. When cars drove by he would stop,

 

and pretend to be waiting for someone.

And then it changed. In my sleep,

I had been out flying kites or crossing boundaries.

 

They took away the tree in pieces. First its arms,

then its long chest. My brother left all at once,

the day after the storm blew in our screen door.

 

He sent us postcards in the mail

with outlines of his hands, shaded grey and wordless.

I thought the direction that the postman came

 

meant something. I tried for weeks to count the rings

of that tree. His last postcard came from somewhere

in the far north:

If you were to carve the compass rose out of wax,

how would you render the center?

 

And if it melts in the sun, and winds down the pavement

in front of your little house

would you turn

your whole life

in that direction?

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