by Nancy Swallow Somerfeld
Boy, aloft, swinging on
A rope over the ravine, landing
Tiptoe on the shale, the grass skidding
Wet underneath, no slippage
For my brother who knew nothing
Of crashes into the river of life, drowning,
Gasping, sucking for air.
It didn’t hit him till he was thirty-two,
The family affliction with the mask of a stroke,
Later known that his mind had flown
While he wandered down that open road
Knowing not where he was going or had gone.
Don’t tell me Schizophrenia is not in the chromosomes
When it has claimed my brother, two sisters and Mama too.
Maybe it came from the Amish on Mama’s side, inbred
For centuries on lonesome farms or the first Dutch settlers
Whose women stayed home hiding the secret conversations
With no one except the kitchen window, the laughter gurgling
Up from no known spring, the sitting and staring on the landing
At nothing but air. My grandma. Nobody knew there was anything
Wrong. Eccentricity is not a condition, just a person inside a home,
Unlike Johnny who had to venture outside, work, ever coping
Until he cracked, even though he was as tall and strong
As a Viking. And it set him out on a flaming boat alone.
Category: Featured, Poetry