LIVE OAK ON FIRE
My brother has just hung up on me.
If I had a gun I'd spray my fucking brains
all over daddy's kitchen is what he said
this time, meaning every word. Outside
my window, a car drives by a little too fast.
It is three-forty-three in the morning
on a Tuesday, October 16th,
and for a moment I catch myself wondering
who could be at the wheel at this hour.
Who is driving away from a fist-sized hole
in a wall, or responding to the late night call
that comes as no surprise?
The screen of my phone goes dark.
I close my eyes and ask out loud
how much longer my brother will have
to live in his tree on fire, the giant live oak we climbed
when we were boys. Its branches are all blackened
now, bark peeling off in strips, spitting sparks.
I know my brother is alone.
Somewhere, sitting up there behind the smoke,
he can no longer even tell how hot it is,
no longer even remember what it means,
the word heat. He doesn't notice much
at all, except perhaps how small
and selfish I look down here on Earth,
circling the trunk below him, trying
and failing to catch the falling ashes
before they touch the ground.
—from Tar River Poetry 53.1 (Fall 2013). Matt Morton's work has appeared in Bateau and Washington Square Review.