Burying My Brother

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
First Place, May 2020
Judged by Terese Coe


Last night we sponged John’s body
as if he were a small boy,
creamed his face,
his fleshy jowls–

dressed in a dark suit
unlike the t-shirt and jeans
he once raced home in–smeared with dust
from belly flops into second base.

Deaf as clay, he doesn’t hear
his neighbors’ peacocks,
their cries like mourners
who can’t resign themselves to grief.

Photos of his kids
lie scattered across his chest
like cards in a poker game–
a winning hand played out.


This has the shock of directness and tragedy, yet irony enters often (and gives little comfort). Numerous oppositions appear in its 16 lines: creamed to dressed in a dark suit / unlike the t-shirt and jeans; a body in death to he once raced home; Deaf as clay to their cries; Photos to a poker game; and death to belly flops. The seemingly offhand but strong imagery and sounds have a spareness and move quickly, shocking and forcing the reader’s senses deep into the funereal scene. The final two stanzas are alarming and intimate, like mourners/ who can’t resign themselves to grief. Resigning oneself to grief would be an extremity to which mourners cling out of helplessness. The children, the winning hand, remind us it is My Brother in the title. The imagery is unique and artless in the sense of unpretentious and occurring naturally. --Terese Coe

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