Family Reunion poem image by Veronica Kornberg.



A brother arrives from Alaska

his arms loaded with

a styrofoam chest of steelhead trout,


his laughter sifting through rooms

as if he weren’t terrified.  He runs

a race to trim the hedge, square the door,


marinate fish in a plastic bag.  Paralyzed,

the family sits beneath a backyard tree

where cherry blossoms drop and catch on them


like snow on statues in a park. 

The brother chatters like a squirrel,

scours the grill and details the treatment


he’ll receive for a cancer of the tongue. 

He points to tattoo targets on his neck and jaw,

and splays his fingers across his cheek


to demonstrate how, with a face mask

he’ll be bolted to the radiation table. 

He might not lose his mandible. 


He has no regrets he says, prefers instead

to remember the time he went fishing

in a hurricane, how everyone else was sick



below decks while he—laughing

into the waves—lashed himself to the boat

and hauled in an enormous catch. 


It’s only May yet suddenly

the sun seems high for evening hours,

a cardinal flutters from clothesline to tree. 


We lay a cloth over the splintery table,

set out the plates—knife to the right, fork to the left—

and raise our glasses of pinot noir.


We let it explode against the palate

then wait for the burn to wash through the throat. 

We brush the petals from our eyes


and tune our ears to the sizzle

of pink flesh hitting the grill

in this, the first picnic of a new season.


Published in New Millennium Writings

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