My father always called my brother
the boy, Ian. With that pause
just like that,
just as I have written it
and as you have heard the weight in that comma.
Being so much younger, I
grew up in houses
without my brother
the boy, Ian.
I was always hanging on my father,
waiting in that space between someone being called
and not yet quite called by their name;
as if there might be rooms
that hid my brother or would bring
his shyness, his boy-musky smell back to me.
One time my father called my brother
to cross a busy road
and he obeyed blindly.
He obeyed because he was the boy, Ian
and my father had called him.
It was as simple as that.
My father kept this moment
as one might keep a photo.
He kept it with a kind of proud shame.
He kept it folded with the held-in breath
of the cars that the boy, Ian
walked right out into.
Looking down the years,
perhaps that pause, that comma
saved my brother’s life.