My brother touches the mole
on my forearm — it’s been there
from birth, as has my brother —
and picks at it because “a bed bug
is hiding there.”
pull away but now comprehend
the scabs and oozes everywhere
on his face and hands and the calves
bared from pajama cuffs
to laceless Nikes.
“I’m the only one,”
he whispers, “who gets it. Not them,”
flicking a right hand (the way
he used to dribble a basketball
in high school while I waited
in the library for him
to walk me home) at patients
staring at a television screen in the corner.
“Not the doctors.
not even you. Do you? Do you?”
“No, I don’t get it,”
I had to say, but added, “but
I know what you say
“And they are stealing
my money. They suck
my blood and will kill me
and steal everything.”
He’s so sure,
so adamant, so in need of a friend —
instead of a collaborator
with the whitecoats who run his
Guantanamo — I wish I could tell
him his horizon is mine too, and we
should fly there together
to save ourselves.
A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived the last quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. His earlier chapbooks of poetry were Greatest Hits (Pudding House: 2001) and On the Back of the Dragon (Omega Cat Press: 1992). Penha edits The New Verse News, an online
journal of current-events poetry.