My Brother's Engagement

my brother’s engagement is my first tattoo
18 years old
driving home from college
early morning hours
crashing on my parents' sloping
living room couch
awaiting mom’s chemo results
dad sees the tramp stamp
symbol in the space between my
shirt and the waistband of my
flannel pajama pants

I hope that’s temporary
he says
and intakes his morning potassium
glass of orange juice
conservative news

my brother’s engagement is my sister’s sexual assault
16 years old
walking to her car in an alley
early morning hours
disappearing into my parents' blind eye
her quiet bedroom floor
awaiting a holy period
because what were you wearing
why were you walking downtown
shirt untucked and coat undone
icy winter down unzipped pants

no one needs to know
they think
while she dissolves into
a glass of addiction
conservative stares

my brother’s engagement is a son’s criminal charges
27 years old
driving record read in court
all hours of the day
always taking cover in
my parents’ quiet kitchen
awaiting a custody battle
youngest brother buys my
parents a convertible in pleading bribery
to cover the bruises blossoming beneath
his girlfriends' skintight dress

now he’ll get help
they say
how can they they bear witness to
glass breaking midnights
conservative apologies

my brother’s engagement is a hard pill to swallow
64 years old
six years of relationship stability
fortyninethousandfourhundred hours
building handmade blocks of safety
a permanent home
awaiting their approval
when they visit and vacation in his comfort
call him for affirmation and expect gifts
weekly phone calls and letters
a comfortable sweater

we’re just blindsided
they say
it’s so hard to forgive this act of rebellion
stained glass commitment
conservative shame