When my nineteen-year-old son turns on the kitchen tap
and leans down over the sink and turns his head sideways
to drink directly from the stream of cool water,
I think of my older brother, now almost ten years gone,
who used to do the same thing at that age;
and when he lifts his head back up and, satisfied,
wipes the water dripping from his cheek
with his shirtsleeve, it’s the same casual gesture
my brother used to make; and I don’t tell him
to use a glass, the way our father used to tell my brother
because I like remembering my brother
when he was young, decades before anything
went wrong, and I like the way my son
becomes a little more my brother for a moment
through this small habit born of a simple need,
which, natural and unprompted, ties them together
across the bounds of death, and across time . . .
as if the clear stream flowed between two worlds
and entered this one through the kitchen faucet,
my son and brother drinking the same water.
Jeffrey Harrison is the author of four full-length books of poetry, The Singing Underneath (1988), selected by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series, Signs of Arrival (1996), Feeding the Fire (Sarabande Books, 2001), and Incomplete Knowledge, (Four Way Books, 2006). In addition, he published the chapbook An Undertaking in 2005, and in June 2006, The Waywiser Press brought out The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems in England.
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