James Allen Hall

The Enemy

Dustin couldn’t stand to be alone, we were twins.
Or not twins. But people mistook us because the Fates
are lazy, full of the whimsy that drives an experimental nature—
they marked one like the other.
As when I walked away to use the bathroom, my brother fixed
to my shirttail until I promised he could come too, though I made him
stand in the corner of the bathtub, the shower curtain drawn.
And now the curtain slides back, you see the scene
is changed. We are in a kitchen on a Friday night,
slicing cucumbers for a salad. We’re older, our bodies
have grown harder, we cut without provocation.
Now no one mistakes us. I’d know my brother in any room
by the sadness he takes pains to bury,
by the way he holds a knife.
You can’t make something as breakable as a heart
without a prototype, a twin.
You can’t leave it hidden in the earth—
it calls and calls for the other.
But because the Fates enjoy verisimilitude as much
as violence, the other heart is also buried, only half as deep.
My brother is so beautiful with the knives.
He can’t help making everything he holds a weapon.
He sent flowers, and still the man he loved would not return.
I know you think the twin is only a figure of speech,
that I’m telling you this while avoiding your eyes.
But it’s real, it’s a question, it marked us in time:
How could my father not have known
my mother did not love him?
When the man said “I love you,” Dustin dug himself out,
he said it back. But he hadn’t healed. He couldn’t say it
without meaning something else. And what he meant was,
Now you’re the enemy.
And now the shower curtain is yours, you’re listening to me
and you think I’m telling you the truth. I’ve said the intimate things.
I’ve gripped you. I will hurt you now,
pull you down here in the hollow the rain made in the dirt.
Look at us, skin against skin, afraid.
Look at me, my cheek on your chest,
waiting for you to sleep. I’m listening to your heart,
the sad liar in you now, the twin arteries
cutting the body its two paths. I’m listening in your blood.

James Allen Hall
“The Enemy” is from Now You’re the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008).