POEM: Sibling Rivalry

*A sestina is, as a former poetry classmate put it, “Italian for long fucking poem.” I challenged my colleague Whitney French to a sestina-off to close-off National Poetry Month. Read hers here. And vote! (poll below poem)


Soldier, you mimic your older brother – left, right, march.

Gripping tightly to your pellet gun, you take aim, you pull the trigger.

You throw down your plastic army helmet, your shot, you missed,

got your brother in the arm, but you were aiming for his heart.

He never saw it coming, he got dizzy, things turned white

Yes, you got him in the arm, but really you got his pride.


Then the curse words start spewing, attacking your pride

and you stand there taking it, refusing to march

and you stand there taking it, as your face turns white.

The words he spews take on a personal tone and so they trigger

instances forgotten, memories so close to your heart

the lover you had, the lover he stole, the lover you miss.


Suddenly this is no game, you wish you hadn’t missed

No way will he get away bruising your pride

No way will he get away again, stomping on your heart,

but the tirade persists from his mouth and he marches

all over you as you place your finger on that trigger.

You lay things out for him in black and white:


At one point in your life you thought him whiter than white

He was the one you’d look up to, the one you’d miss

when he’d be gone fighting wars more sombre than the triggered

woes of a younger sibling’s lost pride.

Then he’d come back home when it was still cold. It was March

and he’d never seen you with that weight on your sleeve. It was your heart.


Her name was Rain and she had Heimliched your heart

from inside your chest onto your sleeve, so white.

The feeling was so apparent, he could not turn away and march,

he was back now, making up for all of the times he missed

this included a – perhaps unintended – war on your pride,

which, and he was sorry, a lovely girl like that tends to trigger.


He looks at you meek, eyes full of the tears you triggered,

weighed down by the emotional battle at heart.

Can you blame him, soldier? Him and his loose pride?

He was never one to pretend black is white

and he certainly did not intend to lead on the Miss.

That is why he marches


And you march on, your hand nowhere near the trigger

Onward, away from that which you miss, regaining your heart

But the flag you carry is not white, it is the emblem of a little brother’s pride.

(c) 2011

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