This Heaven

“This heaven feels homeless and requires love more than ever now”

-William Olsen, “This Heaven”

This heaven feels homeless and requires love more than ever now

As do the ten quail panicking in the shadow of an ironwood tree

As does the seashell locked in the cheek of a boulder outside my window

As does my neighbor leaning threateningly over the balcony railing

As do I on the toilet blowing smoke into the bathroom fan.

Today, in this heaven, it’s been 14 years since I’ve touched my brother’s hair

And I stand above his body with water and shears to keep him clean

Like a springtime baptism in this velvet yard of the dead.

I wrap his heart in butcher paper and lay it on the dinner table,

Wash his hair with olive oil, and rub him down with prayer

Until the long red shadow of death begins to move clear past my body again.

In heaven the night drive through the woods gets me to the smooth arena

Of the lake where I lay in its parking lot to think:

What will my portrait look like when I’ve closed my own door—

What boys’ll come from the woodwork of my life to share a cigarette

And relate somehow to the blue shade of my eye—

To brother-magic and worry stones they’ve not yet touched?

In this heaven I balance a beer can on my brother’s name as I work,

The dirt between us. A tickle of sweat reaching through my hair.