my little brother tells me he’s a drug addict

at Christmas time, our parent’s house ablaze
with light, glimmery trinkets, the thick
smell of cut firs. the low wail of a holiday chorus

slips under the door. it could be a funeral
song, but instead all is calm, all is bright.
we talk in his childhood bedroom, knee to knee

on the red metal bunk we used to share.
hesitant in our affection, as though meeting
after years of another life, I try to see

what’s stayed the same: his huge mess of hair
like hydrangea blooms, pupils wide and dark
as wild blueberries. I want to touch his cheek,

to know this stranger who moves
my brother’s body in and out of reality.
he won’t name names, leaves me

to imagine what all he has welcomed
into himself. maybe a better sister
would have known, trusted the urges

to check the crooks of his elbows
for little graves, called five times
instead of four when he missed

our weekly coffee date. instead, I let
missed meetings pile up between us, left
terse voicemails and felt sorry to have a brother

who could not love me how I wanted. now,
it’s the season of giving and I am willing to give
anything. I just want a brother

who lives. tinsel rustles on the door frame.
it’s dinner time. we sit side by side
at the big table like children, our white plates

staring back at us.


Kiyoko Reidy is a MFA Candidate at Vanderbilt University. She lives in Nashville with her partner and their two dogs. She loves baking, coffee, live music, and anything outdoors. Her work has been published in Red Rock Review, Driftwood Press, The Berkeley Poetry Review, and elsewhere.