What Kids are Supposed to Do
Kids shouldn’t need to carry coffins.
Their shoulders shouldn’t be weighed
down by such a heavy thing, heavy
like the weight
in my chest and how it brought
me to my knees when I got the call.
Kids shouldn’t have to smell the fluorescent
hospital smells, and shrink
as the walls press in.
They shouldn’t know the sounds
of weeping, the kind
the building and takes hold of men
like my father, his uncle, who never cries.
It was the kind of weeping I knew
when I saw him breathing,
but so far
And we all knew it together,
cousins, friends, a brother, and sisters
as we crumbled into pile on the floor and listened
to the mechanical sounds of what remained of his life.
I still see him, scaling church rafters
to show off, chasing cars
from Chick-fil-A Tifton into the highway
to give someone a missing fruit cup
like a friendly neighborhood Superman-
still see him with his cape,
flying off sofas, living
in a world where he was the hero,
and this must be the greatest prank he’d ever played-
because that’s what kids do.
They mess around and tussle and argue and craft insults
so creative, never deeper
than just a joke and laugh
like clowns because nothing
has ever had to be that serious.
He was never that serious,
with his sarcastic soft smiling,
nonchalance, on the other end of my phone
last July, downplaying a copperhead
bite. He told me not to tell his mama-
didn’t want her to worry.
And if he could, I’m sure he’d laugh
about beating us to heaven,
because to him, even death
wasn’t that deep-
it just meant flying away.
We were both April babies.
My mother held me at nine days old, in a hospital awaiting
his birth and I don’t remember that day,
but I’ll never forget these days, waiting
on a clammy floor, watching a mama
hold the hand of her firstborn boy
every breath breaking
because this time
we waited for death.
And the air was
suffocating, so we escaped into Tallahassee’s
steaming yellow sky, fishing poles
over tired shoulders, trespassing
deep into the cursed hospital grounds, climbing
fences to get to ponds like ones
he would’ve loved to fish in, pretending
we could ever feel young again,
and grasping for a piece of him,
in a world turned
upside down, to do
are supposed to do.