Picture this: on a planet at the edge
of a spiral arm, a kid brother leaves
an apartment. And never comes back.
As if the apartment door opened onto
the pull of space, and he fluttered out here,
arms and legs spread wide like Vitruvian Man—
like a kite diminishing against the sky
until the string snaps. Picture the phone
ringing in his apartment, the sparse
efficiency unkempt, a cereal box, banana
peel on the counter, work clothes in a pile
on the love seat, a button-down grayed
by urban heat. Decades follow, searches
flare up: newspaper ads; detectives
hired; internet scoured. But there’s no way
to pull a body back from space, no finding
once it drifts beyond the first star, rips
the membrane between here now
and then gone. In the bluish light
of planet Heaven, father wakes
to his brother: twenty, as remembered,
in a scrolling, opalescent gown. Or
maybe he finds him in living faces,
the additive heaven of too much
aluminum accumulated in the brain.
It’s hard to know how these things
get passed down, but clearly they do.
Sometimes I see him—tumbling
like a handful of jacks, revolving
Vitruvian Man—beyond my portal window.
Benjamin S. Grossberg’s books include Space Traveler (University of Tampa, 2014) and Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa, 2009), winner of the Tampa Review Prize and a Lambda Literary Award. His poems have appeared widely, including in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. A new collection, My Husband Would, will be published by the University of Tampa press next year. He works as Director of Creative Writing at the University of Hartford.
“The Space Traveler’s Father’s Missing Brother” originally appeared in Superstition Review (Issue 5).
“The Finish Carpenter” is featured in TLR: Granary.