poem by Russell Jaffe


The night I punched my brother in the mouth it was endless plastic basement playhouses like memory tends to be. He had a piano recital. He played with his teeth, it ended up. That night when he said he liked birds I told him there were spiders that could eat them whole I read about in one of grandpa’s books, the red one. Brutal spiders came to life for him like water glasses dumped over the couch. He jumped then and didn’t ever stop. I wish I’d said calming music only the TV could provide pours like missing pieces of light through the storm window grating, so watch out. It’s not human, that’s for sure. If you know me you know my windows close the other way—this was in my brother’s room. I slept on the floor, the ground then, to protect him. I often got lonely but it was still my turn anyway. Eat angry and go to bed lost. Years later in my little New York box apartment we screamed at each other. Our window was a tooth in the wall of an old face. Can you believe we never once mentioned the spiders, the birds, and the book that looked down over the VCR like a frowning threat? Like the schoolteachers who dragged him from the bathroom because he was afraid? Like the classmates he hit because they treated him like teeth? Ugh, the way spiders look all over the place from incidental nooks. I’m just the ground you left me, so come home. You’re the nightingale I should have let you talk about.