after Traci Brimhall
The last time I saw my brother, he’d been dead
eighteen months and came as a ghost in the passenger seat,
his arm hanging out the window and whistling
an old boot camp song. He said
we were born on the two ends of Tammuz
and that our mother, ever since Dachau, knew God
wanted us close. The road curved along the Hasbani River.
He turned his head toward the apple groves, let the wind breathe
on his beard as if it hadn’t been
washed and treated in Tahara. Cursed the plains,
their magnificent light in the Arabic he’d learned in a village
beyond the plateau. We stopped for gas
and he took off his shirt. Shrapnel gleamed like mussel shells
caught in the skin above his ribs. He said he’d travel again
underground, spend nights counting beetles
in trenches, that he’d tasted the blood of palm trees
in yellow dates on the other side of the drought.
Years ago, we saw a woman with wild hair
pull bits of gold from her mouth and cast them like the Mayans
cast them, into a sinkhole by the Dead Sea. Flies bustled
in and out of her dress. The desert hummed
underneath like an engine refusing to cool off.
When the late sun vanished into Hebron, she chanted something
in Russian, bent over to watch the last bit of gold
overcome by a womb of earth. The rim collapsed
under her weight and hours later they mined her:
dogmatic, unwilling to show herself
through the muck and salt. No one claimed her. A tourist,
my brother said, and he held me so I could stand
what the land, in its unquenchable thirst, had done.