We stopped when the man with the phone beckoned.
At his feet, another man, sidewalk-unconscious.
People flowed around us like a river around a boulder.
Look at his shoes, said the phone man. He wore a suit
and a white mane of hair. The man on the ground was brown.
One of us folded a sweater and made him a pillow.
A woman complained about the way New York
drivers won’t give emergency vehicles the right-of-way.
Had anyone called an ambulance? A small nun circled us,
as if on wheels. Someone loosen his belt,
the phone man said. One of us faded into the crowd.
Another knelt and held the down man’s calloused hand.
He’s just a drunk, someone said. A curse.
A woman holding a baby in a doorway.
Elegy to My Brother
After A. Van Jordan
June 18, 1987. Black Creek Road shimmers
with heat and new tar in front
of the house we grew up in,
where I learned the gold
of you always having had my back.
Where we caught frogs in the ditch.
Where we listed to our father’s
records. American Pie. Every night now
I walk two miles to the stop sign. Every night
I sleep in your room.
June 13, 1987. You’re driving
a bakery van on Route 13,
cresting a hill. Maybe the sunrise
is in your eyes, maybe not. We’ll
never know why you crossed
over, head-on into the other van,
killing yourself and him. I was watching
Live Aid in my apartment when I got the call.
After that I couldn’t hear music.
June 12, 1987. You’re home
this summer, after your first year
of college, where you met
a redheaded girl, made friends
who hung condoms on your
dorm room door. You broke
your leg playing football in the mud.
You were happier than I’d ever
known you to be.
May 12, 1987. I cannot wait
to see you again. I’ve been
drinking so hard the white of my right
eye is blood red. I’ve been sleeping
on the floor in smashed glass
with an angry man.
It’s all done, you’re there
for the end, your arm around me
in my peach dress and graduation gown.
My burst-blood-vessel eye.
February 8, 1968. Bob Dylan’s
on the turntable, inside
the cabinet stereo with its cozy
orange eye. That’s how I know
the music will play, I can hear it too,
all about Queen Jane, all about
that highway, any highway. You’re here
for the first time and small, nothing much
has changed, there are three of us now,
you’re the second boy and I’m the one
sitting on the couch who knows
you’re not a doll, the one
who holds you, carefully.
HOPE JORDAN grew up in Chittenango, NY, and holds a dual BA from Syracuse University and an MFA from UMass Boston (2020). She lives in NH, where she was the state’s first official poetry slam master. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in Stone Canoe, Blue Mountain Review, Split Rock Review, Cura, and Woven Tale Press. Her chapbook is The Day She Decided to Feed Crows (Cervena Barva Press, 2018).