by Nancy Swallow Somerfeld

Mossy ravine with a bridge over a waterfall

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