Mass for a Foster Brother

eileen cleary

eileen cleary

Mass for a Foster Brother was selected as part of MSU Library Short Edition's call for submissions on the theme of "Home," in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibition "Where We Dwell." Eileen Cleary is the author of 'Child ward of the Commonwealth' (Main Street Rag Press, 2019), which received an honorable mention for the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, and ' 2 a.m. with Keats' (Nixes Mate, 2021) She co-edited the anthology ' Voices Amidst the Virus' which was the featured text at the 2021 Michigan State University Filmetry Festival. Her poems have been published in Sugar House Review, West Texas Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, and other journals. Cleary founded and edits the Lily Poetry Review and Lily Poetry Review Books, and curates the Lily Poetry Salon.

for George Burke

Most of my fellow playmates are white haired
fifty years later, alive but
closer to rising silence.

One, today, gave his breath
into a crown of pneumonic splendor
and ignored the warm porch light,

of the house I'd learned he built
after giving five years to the Navy,
where I think his parents sent him

because of his shenanigans. Once
he managed to lure the neighbor's
pony into his backyard pool,

just to savor the commotion
of his mother chasing him
with a broom before he led

Daisy's colt safely out.
Who can know the mechanics of that?
George must have been, after all,

very bright. He filled in as umpire
for our little league before he had facial hair.
And we all knew he was fair, and

would call a ball a ball because
of how that ball lopped
nowhere over the plate, and not

because the skinny girl at bat lived
with his family, and was his sister
for a few years between

shag haircuts and hot pink culottes.
And not because she would
lug a whole gallon of Zarex

to his high school football field
just to watch the boys sing "YMCA"
at half-time; Georgie, always in the thick

of it, picking himself off the ground
whenever the village people advised.
It's been years since I saw George,

and in the meantime, he called
a lot more games and was
his family's favorite uncle,

always up to pinch-hit,
until a few days ago, when he
left his body behind in a hospital bed,

then floated past the purple grapes and fresh bread
resting on the wooden countertop
his once warm hands carved

for his children, who are older now
than either of us will ever be,
when last we met.

Explore the power of words

Select your story