Elegy for Brother Rudolph
The last time I saw him, at our nephew’s bbq,
he pulled his collar wide to show me his lesions,
his chemo port, the ridges of his breast bone
like a turkey carcass after days of picking,
but he partied on around the fire, singing the songs
he’d written, stamping his feet, joking, and sipping beers
until they and the pain meds overcame him,
and he settled for a lawn chair to watch the sparks
rise up to the stars, claiming they were all kin to one another,
the stars, the sparks, the ash at the end of his cigarette,
the cancer, the grown people who’d tried to break him
when he was just a boy, the guards and inmates
who towered over him, or later, when he was a wiry slip
of man, the tourists who tossed their change like trash
at his open guitar case on River Street,
the wife who left him, and his three children, who
he walked out on for the barrooms, the prisons, the crack,
those three hollows he couldn’t close.
Michele Sharpe, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, adoptee, and former trial attorney. Her work appears in venues including The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Poet Lore, North American Review, Guernica, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She's currently at work on her second memoir.
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