Like one nation divided,
the older—by three minutes—bragged:
We had a race, and I won.
The younger would respond:
We had a fight. I kicked him out.
Impossible to tell them apart—
in photos, in home movies—
hairy and smooth in equal measures,
matching clothes, thin bodies, freckled,
blue eyes behind black-framed glasses—
as babies, often misidentified—
David, Bruce, Bruce, David—
our parents stuck tags on their lapels
to tell which was which.
They had their quarrels,
their little Jacobs and Esaus—
always on opposing teams,
besting each other, one-upping
for the grade, the sweet words,
the larger portion of the meat.
Once, they fought in the living room,
wrestling each other down
onto the carpet, until our grandmother
silenced them in Yiddish.
Mirror images, they studied hard
across from each other at the table
our father built for them—
calculus and biology, future geniuses.
More and more they spoke a language—
equations and higher physics,
cellular receptors and threshold responses—
only they understood, washed
as they were in the same uterus,
as if their embryos merged
into their original zygote again.
At the hospital, I saw one brother approach
the other, breathless brother, closer,
stroke his chest, lay his hand there,
weep. Across that distance, one said:
“You have been gracious to me.”
The other responded:
“Let what is yours remain yours.”
And in that silence, did they call
each other by their rightful names?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.