Ode to Peter Markus #7

Sean Thomas Dougherty


He taught me an alphabet
And an architecture.

He taught me one word
Can mean more than a sentence,

And a sentence can use the same word
Seven times. I never heard the word brother

Until he wrote it. And I haven't heard it the same since.

You taught me to see inside words, how brother

Holds the words other and her
So I know inside every brother is our sisters

And those they would make our enemies.
And together at dinner we sip the broth.

He taught me each word is an ore,
He taught me each word is an archeology

To dig down into, and a map
To travel across. The ur words

He has taught me to sing. Take one,
Let it lead you:

As dirt. And sky.

Let us travel together, across the dark water, casting our lines
In a language seining
For the infinite.

Shhhh the fish are sleeping.

And the moon is an eye

Blinking inside our foreheads.
At the bright light
He teaches us
To swallow.


You are a SMOG T-shirt on a punk kid
Hanging outside the closed ice hockey rink.

A guitar screeching through a tenement flat.
You are Baba baking the bread. The black cathedral

The rusty word repeated until it is not a word.
But a kind of wind. Rippling the river.

How much for the dulcimer? The one inside

The mountain? She was sick
Then it was water,
How much is going before it is taken away?

To burn it down
He is not something nailed to the wall. You are the nail.

To hammer the nail into our chests.

Down by the river where we drowned.

He wants to tell you of our wrists

Before you the word brother was only a word.

The word turned inside out.
He cannot tell the blues without the black sky.
You taught me the time of such deep aloneness is most in the sunlight you

What is more lost than the woman who sits after her miscarriage
Outside the playground watching the children run?

What river bed dried and full of rusted carburators?

Outside the husked coal mine,
Like a cathedral full of votive candles, the long line
Of flickering lights on the helmets of nighshift workers?

We open our palms
Waiting for your rusted nail.

Brother of breathing and boast, brother of zig zag and zip guns, brother of
And whatever the sky abandons. There are procedures. Brother is a kind of
Brother is within the ancient history of readers and writers. To struggle not
    to erase
The mistakes. Brother to burn it down.


To tell us the grace of a hole punched in the drywall.
Half notes on an unfinished arpeggio. The bridge to Windsor.
A fist around a glass of Jack Daniels.
Misplaced letters. Ash. Smudged crosses on the foreheads
Of our grandmothers, the black wailing.
Each broken piece. Nobody touches.
Become us.
After years by a window. Willows.
Toes, her painted toe nails
Beside the Northern lake and the night receding long.
Brother of indigo rattlesnakes down by the River Rouge.
Brother says matchstick this sound ever,
Brother says instead of us breathes a Cadillac river.
Brother says the dead moon wrapped in a scarf.
The brother who asks are you cold, grows
Afraid of the holes in his brother's
Socks in winter. But you are a light
Deep as starlight, sinking its long nails
Into the branches of our outstretched limbs.

Hush of human voices. A cappella shards. Ravishing—