Poem in which my brother doesn’t come out to me, his gay sister by Kaitlyn Duling
Associate poetry editor Sara Ryan on today's bonus poem: This poem by Kaitlyn Duling is intimate and moving. It questions. It quietly hints at something more. The relationship between the brother and sister in this poem is humorous, maybe awkward, and hopeful. There is a knowing between them, a knowing glazed with maple syrup and the stark geography of home.
Poem in which my brother doesn’t come out to me, his gay sister
His first time in my new state,
I point out the window and say “There,
those are ‘rolling hills’ like we always
read about and hear about in movies,
see?” And we get pancakes at the place
where President Obama supposedly loved
the pancakes and had his picture taken
while he said so. The quote is on the wall
in a glass frame. I take him to the zoo
where we have to ride an escalator
to get anywhere close to the animals and
I pull my arms up high, show him how
I live in mountains now. No more of that flat,
quiet earth that waits you out. The first time
I drove through Pennsylvania, I couldn’t breath
because of all the closing in around me, I tell him.
I never knew dirt could be piled up that high.
I want him to see the high dirt and eat his
pancake and believe me when I say I’m happy
here, so far from farmland and flat spots and all that.
Obama dripped syrup all over the floor, I heard,
when he stopped here on his way around the country.
I say this and wave my fork around and make
eye contact. Later, I take my brother to the incline and
point at the river and say “Look, that water isn’t
drinkable” and he says “Huh” and quietly
we drive back down the mountain, stopping
for ice cream to fill his endless teenage stomach
and I grip the wheel because it’s so easy, here,
to fly off the road and down and down and down some more.
Kaitlyn Duling currently resides in Pittsburgh, where she manages the Storymobile program at Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College, where she studied poetry. An Illinoisan at heart, Pushcart nominee, and winner of the Davenport Poetry Award, her poems have found homes in Denver Quarterly, Big Muddy, Ninth Letter, IDK Magazine, The Fourth River, and Wilde Magazine, among others.