Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Brother's Face: a Villanelle


My Brother’s Face


The gentle ghost that wears my brother’s face
stares out from the grey-toned photograph;
an absence full of grief usurped his place.

They sit so calmly in that shaded space
beneath the tree: young boys, fresh-combed and dressed,
the ghost that wears my brother’s gentle face.

Three brothers the faded photo shows, three mates—
the two I know, and one whose eyes look past
the absence full of grief that took his place.

His look is peaceful and yet penetrates,
meets my curious searching, fears of death.
The gentle ghost that wears my brother’s face—

did he know too much, too soon, as to displace
far younger lessons on his short path?
An absence full of grief usurped his place.

Brother of mine, had your days spun on apace
what shared secrets, told or untold, would we have?
O, gentle ghost that wears my brother’s face,
an absence full of grief usurped your place.


Note: The story of how I came to write this poem is told in the previous post, "Remembering my Brother". I wrote the poem based on my memory of this photograph. Now that I see the real photo again after many years, it seems a happier moment than my poem depicts. But then, having never known my brother, my primary experience of him is through absence and family grief, and that surely colors my memory of the photo.