Ellen Skilton

Little Brother, Still Gone

When he left, he escaped so suddenly
like a fish on a hook that falls off when reeled in
but it was also so very slowly
as an iron lung breathes and heaves,
his cerebrum already fried

It was such a fucking relief
like when a toothache stops throbbing,
or a freshly cauterized wound.
As the youngest one died,
we screamed silently into the void

It was both truth and untruth
when in the hospital my mother
said of her braindead boy
“At least now I know he’s safe”
his angst and danger gone for good

I said “I cannot fathom he is gone”
and I still can’t a dozen years on
my little brother sings to me at dusk,
the voice of a drunken angel
harmonizing with the moon

The gift of his gut-wrenching exit
is a refrain I hum when I’m scared
This is it, this is it, this is it
now or never, even if a mistake,
just jump right into the lake

Ellen Skilton is a professor of education whose creative writing has appeared in The Dewdrop, Dissident Voice, and Rebelle Society. She is an educational anthropologist, an applied linguist and a Fringe Fest performer. She is in the second year of an MFA Program in Creative Writing at Arcadia University. She is an excellent napper, a chocolate snob, a swimmer, and lives in Philadelphia with a dog named Zoomer, a cat named Katniss and some lovely humans.