The palm reader has commenced her weeping,
the lines etched into my brother’s skin fleeing
each other at sharp angles. Her attempts to soften
them of their panic with her thumb, a fiasco.
A boy’s future avoiding examination like a pair
of striped legs curling back beneath the house
that crushed them. Have we not all been crushed
by what shelters us? By a sun hauled from the sky
& collapsed into rubies, my brother carrying
the wreck of it in his hands. With soap & water,
I scrub those hands clean. I do the killing. I do
what it takes to keep a boy from realizing something
inside him has already died. All day, my brother
sleeping atop a bed of pine needles & cinderblock,
his body refusing itself mercy by refusing to lay
flat against the earth. Steady now, says the palm
reader. Steady now, says the palm—& maybe
my brother has tried. Maybe I have too, nodding
with his trembling hand in mine, each time he says,
I don’t care about who I could be. I only want
more of who I am.


Susan L. Leary is the author of Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021) and the chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019), which was a finalist for The Heartland Review Press Chapbook Prize and a semi-finalist for the Elyse Wolf Prize. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Tahoma Literary Review, Cherry Tree, The MacGuffin, and Pithead Chapel. She teaches Writing Studies at the University of Miami.