he was small for his age, which had been fourteen
blue eyes still bulged from a bright blond head
and he loved his brother, who would still sometimes
take him to the night-colored concrete
and shoot sunny spheres into worn cloth nets
or else sling an arm over a shoulder
and rumple the yellowish hair.
and when autumn came round they'd venture
into the forest, as they say, where the magic lies
but for brothers it was fist-fights and leg races
and the older always winning, then
putting a large hand on a smaller head and
rubbing the dandruff scalp
a twisting grin unfurling amidst the brown leaves.
the younger was nine when the scares began
dragged by his mother to rooms the color of aspirin
where he was strangled by prescriptions
the color palette: white, urine, and blood red
and there were pills stored in boxes
and mint-green charts tacked to cardboard
and teary conversations held in low voices.
but every year, there was escape:
the reds and oranges bloomed like plumage
and leaves cracked under stomping toes, breaths blown into stale air
but the younger collapsed after being thrown a basketball
and again the worried faces tore at hearts
"never again," hissed the mother to the oldest son
"or his anemia will kill him."
the day arrived, and everyone cried
and the boy sat with tubes plugged into skin
his face mashed by a machine
and his brother held the trembling white hand
carefully caressed the head devoid of locks
and both brothers seemed to die, right there:
one of blood and one of soul.
the trees were crimson when the forest was next visited
the ground laced with shots of orange sun
and a basketball was thrust hard against the earth
as tears flew from vacant eyes
and the brother, very much dead
punched a tree, the wood splintering through his knuckles
as if to have one last fist fight.