When I hear you brother, trembling in your grave, I imagine you alive. Sharp as black pepper. I catch you in the scent of gunpowder, in tunes whistled from someone’s mouth. In limbs of snow waiting like brides in the woods.
Once, we went together on our bellies with pens and paper to the underworld. We saw all the stars in tiny bowls on the side of the road. Tasted the grammar of ashes. But I returned alone, stained and cold, balled in a fist. For a long time, there was a braid of anchors inside me.
You would love my children. My daughter’s style, her fierceness on a skateboard. My son’s big heart. He’s the kind of kid who gives all his birthday money away. And his face is a near replica of yours.
I try to remember the sound of your voice, and it comes to me as a sensation in my own throat. A mushroom growing in the darkness, aching like a phantom limb flung from the body.
Ours was a game written in chalk on a wall. A hill of white clover. You might shut the lid of your lunch box and return with these images. The tarmac teeming with ants. You, on top of the roof, unable to climb back down. Stuck with tree bark like lace in your hands. Our mother’s felt hat, dropped in the school hallway after we argued over which of us would wear it to class that day.
The day you made a mist of yourself, you moved across the grass, down the field, into the leaves. You turned to fire and blossoms and morning school buses. Lights flashing in the fog above the road. Three steps up, three steps down. This is how to travel across time. Across my hair still wet from the shower. Into the house of constant prayer inside my head.
Give me your to-do list dotted with rain. The music from behind your door. Your muffled words. My son dreams of you in his room sometimes. You sit behind the drum set and glow like the moon.
Hear Lydia Gwyn read her story
Lydia Gwyn is the author of the flash collections: You’ll Never Find Another (2021, Matter Press) and Tiny Doors (2018, Another New Calligraphy). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in F(r)iction, Midway Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Florida Review, New World Writing Quarterly, and others. A selection of her stories and poems is slated to appear in Ravenna Press’s Triples Series in late 2023. She lives with her family in East Tennessee, where she works as an academic librarian.