Marie Howe

1950 / Rochester, New York / United States

How Some of It Happened

My brother was aftraid, even as a boy, of going blind- so deeply
that he would turn the dinner knives away from, looking at him,

he said, as they lay on the kitchen table.
He would throw a sweatshirt over those knobs that lock the car door

from the inside, and once, he dismantled a chandelier in the middle
of the night when everyone was sleeping.

We found the pile of sharp shining crystals in the upstairs hall.
So you understand, it was terrible

when they clamped his one eye open and put the needle in through
his cheek
and up into his eye from underneath

and left it there for a full minute before they drew it slowly out
once a week for many weeks. He learned to, lean into it,

to settle down he said, and still the eye went dead, ulcerated,
breaking up green in his head, as the other eye, still blue

and wide open, looked and looked at the clock.

My brother promised me he wouldn't die after our father died.
He shook my hand on a train going home one Christmas and gave me
five years,

as clearly as he promised he'd be home for breakfast when I watched him
walk into that New York City autumn night. By nine, I promise,

and he was- he did come back. And five years later he promised five
years more.
So much for the brave pride of premonition,

the worry that won't let it happen.
You know, he said, I always knew I would die young. And then I got sober

and I thought, OK, I'm not. I'm going to see thirty and live to be an old
And now it turns out that I am going to die. Isn't that funny?

- One day it happens: what you have feared all your life,
the unendurably specific, the exact thing. No matter what you say or do.

This is what my brother said: Here, sit closer to the bed
so I can see you.
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