broken brothers
poem by  
  keith  o'connor
faces: by  keith o'connor ...  
logo by keith o'connor 
main index Poetry  Index Quick Poetry List

Broken Brothers

I was the sixth born
World War II had just begun
fifty six days later my mother died
I didn't kill her
but she was dead
and I was alive
my brothers never said
I killed their mother
but always said
"mom died when keith was born"
I was given into the care
of my paternal grandmother
to be raised in my father's childhood home
a turn of the century brick house
central hot water heating
rugs on polished hard wood floors
fine china - table linen
hot and cold running water
a piano
plenty of food - clothes
a summer garden
a loving wise gentle grandmother
and a warm cozey bed
upon which to rest my head
before I was old enough
to form memories
of my four brothers
and one sister
they would

every Saturday evening during the winter
arrive for a warm bath
and then
when all clean and shiny
my father would take them home
to their small cold-water house
built by my great grandfather in the 1860's
two wood stoves for heat
they slept through cold nights
snuggled two to a bed
their frost covered breath
forming little clouds
rising in the frigid night air
from breathing holes
shaped in their blankets.
pity poor keith my brothers were told
he lost much when your mother died
you must care for your little brother
he needs your help
you have each other and he is alone
pity poor keith
pity poor keith they mumbled
nobody cares for us
nobody needs us
nobody want's us
hand-me-down clothes we wear
it's not fair
keith should suffer
keith should suffer like us
the louder the voice
the younger the brother
the years they pass
and in their passing
find and take my grand father
find and take my father

then my gentle
grandmother passes on
the relentless passing years take my sister
suddenly my oldest brother gone
another wake
another family gathering
the brothers they call them
oh yes
there was another
the one raised by the O'Connor's

in my mind's eye

I saw my eldest brother
as a young man
a teenager
sitting on the back porch steps
of their small house
whittling a wooden toy gun
just for me

drifting among the mourners voices
that pushed my memories back

"grama bought keith shoes
we had hand-me-downs
baby keith had it all"

a brother with eyes averted:
politely comments
"we must not wait for another wake
we must get together some time
maybe in the spring"
"yes I said"
brother went off
joined another brother
their own private reunion
over dinner and conversation
forever remain
the invisible fifth brother
in a family with four brothers
the one raised by the


keith o'connor
ottawa ontario canada

Copyright © 
 Copyright © / Keith O'Connor /www. tinmanGallery All rights reserved.
tinmangallery banner by keith o'connor