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Día de los Muertos #4

baby brother's blues

he was just a kid who loved to tease

our sisters and counted on me to keep

the neighborhood bullies at bay

but our stepfather did not like him as he was

right away he tightened the screws

shaved his head

slapped him around

played mind games with him

like waking him up at two in the morning

and making him shine his shoes

he was only seven or eight

the time he took him to downtown L.A.

made him get on the floor of the car

so he could not see where they were going

then he was told to sit up and before he

could ask about the tall buildings and all the people

scurrying about like ants the old man opened the door

kicked him out on the sidewalk

drove off without saying a word

years later my brother would say he had never been so scared

cried as he realized he had been dumped

on the street like an unwanted pet, until

our stepfather circled the block

laughed as he picked him up like

it was a big joke

his childhood became a thing to endure

losing a piece of himself with every blow

to his head, carrying what was left of his psyche

in the palm of his hand

like pieces of precious glass

last year i drove up to see him

surrounded by cold stone walls

and fences with razor sharp edges

men with loaded guns watched from above

as we hugged and talked

this is how i remember my baby brother

in Folsom blue

trying to fill the holes in his soul

with Camel cigarettes

and crude tattoos

published in McLife. Main Street Rag Press, 2005

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