MY BROTHER’S EAR

Side by side on the sofa, we peer
into the monitor, Peter and I.
We haven’t sat so near for years.
Up close, his ear looks large and
noble, like a Pharaoh’s. His cheek
glows fresh, rosy as a boy’s.

Old now, both of us, we watch
home movies, the fragments of our
fragmented childhood skittering past.
Scenes jump about, now Central Park
now Switzerland. Sailboats glide past
—and skiers–birthday parties,
grandparents wave–an ocean liner
docks. Our dog tirelessly chases
a tennis-ball. And here is our mother
—dazzling as a movie star–
hamming it up for the camera.
She’s smiling, talking, gesturing…
What is she saying? We’ll never know.

The landscape of my brother’s ear
at close range, is like some just-discovered
life-form—a newly found crustacean
or an exotic desert plant.
This same ear that pressed
against my forehead at dancing school
as we practiced the foxtrot.
That bent towards me after lights-out
as we traded information, like spies
trying to figure out the lay of the land.
It’s still with me–the sour-sweet flavor
of those shadowy times.

Watching now that old life flicker
before us, a rueful pity grows in me
for who we were–and what we grew
out of. That bony boy, trying over and over
to do a cartwheel, determined to get it right.
That skinny little girl–her knock-knees,
her fierce scowl—struggling to keep
hold of a squirming dog.

And that brother and sister—dressed up
as pirates for a costume party–
standing side by side in the archway
of a hotel portal,–somewhere in Austria–
waving, smiling gamely, their arms
laced around each other’s waist.