We kiss in parting and greeting. Brother John painted our black Madonna, and close as he was to her face, he often preaches, he was never closer to wisdom. Brother Benjamin, difficult at times, but full of rue and regret that he cannot control his need to order—utensils, stones, usually books—taps himself wildly and sometimes wails. Brother Baptiste once asked, How do I fit into my body? Brother Javier survived the plague. We think nothing of his fever-whitened hair: no one returns untouched from death’s strange land. Brother Jeremiah covers pears in cloth to protect from sudden frost. We’ve only read about the sea, but after a day’s labor he smelled like my dream of the sea. Sometimes, my brother offers a pear and knife, its handle made lustrous through the passing of hands.
Derrick Austin is the author of the forthcoming Tenderness and Trouble the Water (both from BOA). He is a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.