by Lucy Hannah Ryan
my brother is a smiley drunk & the only man in the family I trust.
The only man whose hands aren’t workworn to pumice — whose hands weren’t roughened on another man’s skull.
& he’s a smiley drunk, eyes baby sunsets curving to smallness where my dad’s span the unfocused wide —
Where my dad’s scour the tinderbox for a spark to strike inadequacy;
Nostrils flare & the broken chair & flames lick my cheeks like unhousebroken spaniel.
& he’s not the smiling type, arterial pulse of braying chuckle already souring on his tongue, bile-soured cider freshly gorged upon,
& he’s more the roaring type, words slurred & cruelty unmistakable, teeth spit-shined in the living room light.
& my brother’s smiling sober & my dad’s jaw busted into fracture & maybe that’s a smile, pride in self-deconstruction,
smashed knuckle & smashed jaw & smashed stranger —
& I’ll be the man, then, I’ll be the final blow & my brother’s fatherhood a different animal after all.