MAP #72

Theme: Siblings

1. Our bud Jimmy Smith from So. Cal. sent this offering:

My brother The Mystery Marine

At first I only heard the stories

He was gone then

Seventeen and killing Koreans

Home on leave he slept

All day and I watched him

Strong silent,

a budding gambler

With no feel for the truth

Of the dice

We went to the track once

When I was six and

Had wings for ears

My twenty turned into

Two hundred

Just pointing to the number

In the sheet

My two hundred turned into

Six hundred

Bought me a new suit

and a Chicago gangster


The picture we took together

Has me well dressed and small

Him penniless and forlorn

But large

Then he killed time

Killed Vietnamese

Killed his soul


and tolerance

Now he sits at home with

His medals and haircut

And I write words of hope

For tomorrow's children

Somehow I feel

that I am the true


© 1999 Jimmy Smith


2. From Kathy Coleman in Oklahoma:

As a child

I hated you

the unassailable rival

for love's attention

cuter, smaller

softer, smarter

a pleaser

(who knew how)

while I,

trapped in my own prisons

of awkward solitary sadness

could not find the keys

We have struggled each

not with each other

but with life's inevitable

unforeseen turns

and grown


most dear

to me

you are

a comfort sure and deep


distance cannot dull

Shall we write?

that book of poems



© 1999 Kathy Coleman


3. Jimmy Jazz, from San Diego, writes about his mother's brother.

My Uncle Mike Shurtleff

The hippie with long red hair in a fading photograph named

his dog after jethro tull

My uncle, the practical joker balanced

bowling balls on the door to drop on his brothers

My uncle, taught me to throw a spiral forward pass stretching

my first grader fingers across the laces

My uncle, took me to knott’s berry farm offering

a hit of marijuana before the roller coaster

didn’t push it when I said “no thanks”

My uncle, hitting home runs at the family picnic,

fourth of july

My uncle, the father of cousins I rarely see;

the youngest brother to my mother

My uncle, the user

got his jaw broke after burning

the hell’s angels on a speed deal

My uncle, the “cat burglar” of ocean beach took

my ten year old cousin to rob a trailer counseling

You can take just one thing”

My uncle, in jail

My uncle, the family rumor

My uncle, who after massive heart attack still

climbed the highest rock in the mountains

My uncle, whose unexpected presence at X-mas, sent

my aunt mary into convulsive tears of joy

My uncle, the dumpster diver found

a gold necklace for his girl

and got himself a 3-piece suit at the thrift store

(the vest too small and the pants good for high water)

My uncle, who believed in angels

lives with them

© 1998 Jimmy Jazz


4. And from Jean Russell of Virginia:


No one knows what goes on here after dark,

in this field of white stones.

Their marble glows, lit by the moon.

Names and dates fly at me like white neon

and each stone has its story.

The trees wave and moan

and beg the wind not to tell me the stories -

the ones I'm not supposed to hear.

The moon compelled me to come here tonight

and sit among these engraved names

of people I never knew, except you.

Someone has hung a windchime from this tree -

some desolate husband who remembered his wife

would always fall asleep when there was music playing.

I lean against this tree listening to the windchime,

remembering when you were two and I was ten.

The moon knows what I'm thinking.

She looks away and seems to cry.

She used to have a brother, too.

© Jean Russell