My Brother Called To Say
He called to say the house is gone, the house burned down to the ground he was panting like when he needed quieting from nightmares in that house where we survived what is not in the ashes, the house wall-papered, linoleumed, set back off the highway, just three of us moved in, then he came sickly grew up fearful, into the house where things got worse, couldn’t keep out black snakes that slithered into the basement, hung there off the plumbing pipes, shed their skins, left them behind in the potato cellar shriveled staple we found in the barn, the hayloft. The lush fields changlings— left the house for plowing, discing, planting, hoeing, weeding, picking, sorting, selling, cover crop sprouted, stood tall, bales for market, then the snow fell inside the house nothing changed a bathtub where we soaked in our own dirt. Hunched under the spigot to wash in the same water both of us dark-haired, olive-skinned children of the house of the two who seethed in the house shadowed by oak and pine where they learned to despise us instead of themselves house now ashes to ashes dust to— settling over the field over him over me
The same dream lies under my pillow waiting for the final sigh just before sleep. Psyche strains against slumberous reprieve, dreads the collapsing into endless catatonic drifting hell. You are there, repentant, pleading, in the bed we soiled with mutual disgust long before we called it off. Which hate was stronger, which the final offense? Surrounded by life on this prickly planet, the so-muchness of it begging for slumber’s soliloquy. All pathways hiss Travail or River of Madness. Insults oozed up until we waded in hatred’s marled tar pit, blistered in the flames that flew from our tongues. What exactly is alone not lonely or an individual apart from and if there is a soul, unless our mistakes are portals of discovery, unless regret offers an unguent of redemption.
Rina Terry has both an academic and a clergy background and spent years as Supervisor of Religious Services in a men’s state prison. Her first book, Cardboard Piano, is themed on her years in the prison work. She has published book reviews, short fiction, poems and essays in Christian Century, Press 1, qarttsiluni, Palette Poetry, McQueen’s quinterly, and Drexel Online Journal. In addition, with Dr. David Lester, she has published academic articles related to poets and suicide. She has completed a two-month residency at Vermont Studio Center and looks forward to a month-long fellowship at Hawthornden Castle Writers Program in Scotland. Terry, a Southern New Jersey native, currently lives and writes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.