On Trying to Convince Him to Go to Rehab

His words are a forehand, a topspin screamer
down the line. After his fourth beer, he starts arguing
about God with that special intensity. Even without
the sour of beer, he hits me with fish stories, banal
platitudes, didactic little parable-ish stories, liberal
arts clichés, the commercial slogans that appear
on T-shirts—as if they have a life-or-death importance,
as if someone else’s words are an inert tool lying
there passively, a neutral medium for
the transfer of _________ from him to me.

He is dancing in place like a boxer, cutting his eyes
warily from side to side as he talks, like a convict
expecting to be shanked. I wear love for him on my
forehead like Lenten ash, struggle through Zen meditation
and clinical depression, stand on tip-toe and peer ahead
to the tiny chained arch of light at the end of the tunnel.
I speak in a slick glissade, but despite his dysphesia,
his severe difficulties in forming coherent sentences, he is
so quickly able to move and rotate and strike and recover.
It’s not utterances that make any sense, but angle
that makes his serve-and-volley game so lethal.

The lead-up to this—the mania, the drugs and sugar,
the irresistible compulsions—are not my story to tell.
I can only grieve my brother. This, here, is merely skeleton,
not flesh—bones with an innate predilection for visual
stimulation, colored movement, a frenetic variety, a beat
they can dance to. This, here, is beauty of a particular type—
two human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body,
the fight with every last schism between our physical wills
and our actual capacities. Can anyone doubt we need help
being reconciled? Crave it? But this mass noise,
chest-thumping, face-painting rally is safer for us than love.

Sources: Both Flesh and Not and This Is Water.


HEATHER HOLLAND DUNCAN is an Integrated Studies student at Utah Valley University, studying English literature, anthropology, and creative writing. Her chapbook, Mastering the Art of Joy, was published by NFSPS as winner of the Edna Meudt Memorial Award. Her poems have also appeared in The Found Poetry Review, Segullah, Encore, Touchstones, and Warp and Weave.

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