Sean Hill

Elegy for an Older Brother 1922

Benny’s handsome, red brown like rust on a hoe. Empty
headed cows loll in the pasture ignoring the mule’s bray.
Light shines as easily through a cicada’s husk clinging to a tree

as through a bottle of liniment or a glass of tea
on the dinner table. The hems of his overalls fray
and tickle Benny’s skin as he plows. Empty

promises from a brother, emptied simply,
without volition, friable as leaves underfoot on a fall day,
translucent as a cicada’s husk clinging to a tree.

Benny went to war across the water, over the sea.
He left himself here, on this side, on the quay.
Benny’s thin and red brown like rust on a hoe. Empty

handed, back from France, he speaks of Paree
often, though he’s been home three years come late May.
The day is empty like a cicada’s husk clinging to a tree,

empty like sound after the mule’s kick when Benny falls, free
of this place then the hum of a bee and cry of a jay.
Benny’s skin red brown like rust on a hoe is empty
as a cicada’s husk clinging to a tree.

Sean Hill

"Elegy for an Older Brother 1922" appears in Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (University of Georgia Press, 2008).

First posted on May 17, 2009 10:18 AM