Lonely tantrums. Eyelids. Adhesive bandages. Mother says that you have taken a course. Mother says that you can intubate a man and shake his stomach back into its sac. You sent her a copy of your stamped certificate.
But your eyelid. I rapped it with a little stone. It broke and you bled.
Before the roads were paved, before Animal Control seized the running dogs and feral cats, you came barefoot and laughing from out of our house and stepped on pinecones. You smelled faintly, as always in those days, of urine and watermelon rinds. You hit the swing with a stick and then the birdbath. Kelly, you said, and Kelly, Kelly. What are you doing?
I cracked a clod of dirt on a flagstone and picked out a worm from its wet center. I lay the wriggling thing out for a bird. You picked strawberries from their spoiling vine and put them over it.
Go away, I said.
Our mother in our house poured brown beer for our father and for her own father and laughed. Their three faces moved behind the window screens. I pointed at them.
You don’t want to go in?
I can stay, Kelly.
Tasseled Kaibab above us chattered at nuthatch and broke bark from the tree branches. They dropped it down on our heads and chuckled.
Hit it, I said.
Small basins of stones and clods spotted our yard. My fingers moved through soft thistle and wild violets and I picked up clots of them. Hit it, I said again. I aimed a little thing—a little clod—at your face and threw. You swung the thickest part of your stick and broke the matted dirt in midair.
I threw another and you broke it, and then another. I got bored. I threw a stone. This you did not break.
You turned—the stone snapped open your sniping eyelid and your eyebrow, and you put your filthy fingers to these things and said, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. Your cheek pinkened. Your middle finger curled into your palm. Your opening hands rolled over like whitecaps.
Our mother came out of our house for you. Don’t tell, I said, and I hid myself from her. But you ran into her frenzy and stained her shirt and she took you in to care for you.
I stayed out and away: ashamed, collecting the bodies of dead bees and june bugs.
Summers leeched into sleeping. You writhed in your skin and grew upwards so fast that your heart fell into your foot and fluttered on the floor. I can’t forget: you asleep and shaking when I tickled you—what was the dream from which you would not wake?
Here is my own: you, naked, eat an Afghani bullet, and teeth and tongue drop out from your smile. Your feet, each already fractured in four places, fill with shrapnel. Your lungs accordion ever outwards. You gave to friends your vest and boots. Both your hands open and give to the acres a gesture that I have known. There is no mother to butterfly your brow. There are no spare rags to put to your face. Precautionary paramedical training does not pack your organs back in.
You die and leave us an inadequate ceremony: limbers and caissons; gunshot in three-volley; bugle song; lilies, white and few and funerary; a folded flag; post-mortem medals. Barracks are cramped; they put you three feet deep over top of another.
Grave keepers pat down the clods and clumsy sod. I take the shape of a bone and lay myself over you. Your face in your casket turns ever away, as if from a thrown stone.