Rebecca Macijeski

To My Brother Eleven Months Younger Than Me Whose Body is No Longer Alive

I wake up some mornings
and wonder what it felt like for you to breathe.
Was your breath like my breath,
slow and deliberate,
or did air leave you
like breeze through an open window,
as sure as mountains or birds in nests?

I keep making you my story
because that’s the only version I know,
but I want to hear how I’m part of your story.
I want you to tell me things I need to hear, like

You wake up in the morning and you do something.
It may not be right enough or smart enough
but you do it because that’s being alive.
Sometimes it’s hard because your mind
is a light-up map of everything you want
and different buzzers keep going off.
It’s okay. Light up the world.
Light up the whole damn room.

But I’m stuck for both of us
in the hard work of remembering,
and all you can do is make a home here in my mind
—the memory of you, anyway. Sometimes,
in the alternate world of my thinking,
you invite me over for dinner.
You cook lasagna and we talk for hours.
You tell me what it’s like being dead, how no poet
has gotten it right
they put too many flowers
and I say
so clearly some part of you is still alive
sure, you’ll say, if that helps things
then you put dessert on the table
but there’s a knock at my door and you’re gone again
who knows for how long this time.

Because I Listen for Things

How the mind wants what it wants
like the river wants the sea.
How you can learn how someone loves
by the way they watch a bird.
How light pains the eyes.
Too much or too little
and the distance keeps burning.

How an apple, when eaten slowly,
reveals itself in stages, teeth biting their little excavations of red,
white pulping and juicing underneath. Then the cave of seeds.
Sometimes I wonder if they even know what lucky place they are.

How my feet’s flat skin curves the carpet
and turns soft circles there.

How the joy of this quiet is my day’s best work,
something still and certain no other person can know.

How crickets build into belief in the night,
their open window whirring anchored in me.

How each silence holds its own exquisite song
clearing out what’s no longer there
burnished for a moment, hulled out.

How the idea of me, of this,
is what I’m building. Even into tomorrow.
Even past certainty, past my own death,
past creation and into legacy.

How a life grows. Slow at first, then bursting.
Hands gathering up what they know
like nests, like hurricanes, libraries.
How the body becomes a museum,
my mind always straightening shelves, dusting keepsakes.

Rebecca Macijeski’s poems have appeared in The Missouri ReviewPoet Lore, Barrow Street, Nimrod, The Cincinnati Review, Fairy Tale Review, and many others. She is Creative Writing Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Northwestern State University. Her chapbook, Autobiography, will come out with Split Rock Press in 2022.

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