Portrait of the Sibling I Feel Closest To

Carrie Shipers | Poetry

I still sometimes describe him
as my asshole brother, but I always follow up
with his big heart, how hard he works
to take care of his friends. When we sold
our parents’ house, he got upset
I didn’t keep Mom’s ivy-print Corelle
or Dad’s collectibles. All he wanted
were two chainsaws he thought
that he could fix. He says he’d like
to come to Rhode Island and I tell him
he should but know we’d have at least
one stupid fight brought on by alcohol,
that even sober he might make me cry
by teasing me too hard. I don’t offer
to visit him although I’d like
to meet his dogs and see the backyard
smoker he’s proud of. At 16,
I flew to Phoenix for a week
and left after two days. Our parents
used to say that we were just alike,
but he’s kinder and more adventurous,
while I’m more practical and less
likely to yell. Once, he called with fresh
stitches from falling onto glass
while racing R/C cars, and I felt bad
for taking notes and noticing
his voice was thick with beer despite
the early hour. Once, he admitted
having kicked a wooden door down to
splinters and brass, and that replacing it
felt cheap compared to the relief
he got. He also offered me money
for Mom’s last bills and paid me back—
without my having asked—for the postage
I’d spent sending family photos
and keepsakes. Before we hang up,
he makes me promise—often
more than once—that I’ll come to him
when I need help. I always say I will,
but we’re not really close enough
for me to keep my word.