He was lost to us for seven years,
but we traced him to this door.
When he opened it, a whitewash
of poverty that caked the room
clenched the walls behind his back,
then exhaled its breath with ours.
Its space squeezed air through cracks
in smiles, rubbed our eyes in emptiness,
ripping the mask of age away
to bare the match-flame of his essence.
Lit on the flint of sibling handshakes,
it flickered in our brother’s face.
To this day, I can still hear
the squashing mouth of the wind
as it sucked and chewed at the window
of that room in San Francisco.
I see his glances trip like feet
on the staircases of our faces.
I feel the ache of our mother’s knee
as she hoists him up the family tree.
If I could trade the silence
that nails boards to shut his soul in
for one photo from my album
of our youth in San Jose,
I would choose the summer Sunday
of his hula-hooping lecture,
when his swimming trunks clung
to the point wet boys can make.
His somersaulting phrases
matched gyrations of his waistline,
bouncing like a beachball
on wet mouths of rubber pools.
Our lazy grins were hula-hooped
to floods of backyard laughter,
while a hose of spouting water
sprouted rainbows in thin air.