John Blair is the author of Playful Song Called Beautiful (University of Iowa Press, 2016), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. He directs the creative writing program at Texas State University and lives in San Marcos, Texas.
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A youngest brother turns seventeen with a click as good as a roar, finds the door and is gone. You listen for that small sound, hear a memory. The air-raid sirens howled of summer tornadoes, the sound thrown back against the scattered thumbs of grain silos and the open Oklahoma plains like the warning wail of insects. Repudiation is fast like a whirlwind. Only children don't know that all you live is leaving. Yes, the first knowledge that counts is that everything stops. Even in the bible-belt, second comings are promises you never really believed; so you turn and walk into the embrace of the world as you would to a woman, an arrant an orphic movement as shocking as the subtle animal pulse of a flower opening, palm up. We are all so helpless. I can look at my wife's full form now and hope for children, picture her figured by the weight of babies. Only, it's still so much like trying to find something once lost. My brother felt the fullness of his years, the pull in the gut that's almost sickness. His white smooth face is gone into living and fierce illusion, a journey dissolute and as immutable as the whining heat of summer. Soon enough, too soon, momentum just isn't enough. Our tragedy is to live in a world that doesn't invite us back. We slow, find ourselves sitting in a room that shifts so slightly we can only imagine the difference. I want to tell him to listen. I want to tell him what it is to crave darkness, to want to crawl headfirst into a dirt-warm womb to sleep, to wait seventeen years, to emerge again.