Brother of Shade
            For Justin

brother of smoke, brother of canopies,
            brother of porch dusk,
brother of wasps in the head
            of a porcelain rabbit,
brother lost in grime and chemical fire,
            brother of failing liver,
addiction and two kinds of cancer,
            brother leaving my brother two-hundred miles of space
that cements the lesson he already learned: that he is down a brother

            for life—I feel you in the whiteness of teeth,
I feel you in grinning to ward tragedy,
            I feel you every time I speak,
my heart racing: the broken rabbit
            bounding through low-cut grass.

Brother whose family is darkness and nicotine,
            the wheezing of the space heater, the radio’s tinny static,
I know the spider that silks us together, keeps us
            standing just inside the shadow of the eaves,
but I want to see you when you step out of those bus doors.
            I want you to burn open
And hear all the locks inside you click.


Ryan Bollenbach is a poet attending the University of Alabama’s MFA program. He is a fan of poetical mysticism and cinematic minimalism. His poetry can be read at Prick of the Spindle, Blacktop Passages, the Rose Red Review, and elsewhere. His editorial work can be read at, and his media-centric musings can be read at