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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