Dead Inside

Jeremy Michael Clark

          for my brother Joshua

Of the moments I was saddened by today
there’s one on the bus where I was confused
for a dead man by a stranger peeling
an orange, his thumbs gouging the skin
to loosen the fruit. The air turned a sour
I couldn’t avoid. You look just like him
said the stranger, heavy eyes ripened
with memory. Picking up, the wind ripped
loose a tarp, exposing a motel’s unrepaired
roof. Lord, it looks like rain, I said as I left
the house today, so focused on the sky
I almost didn’t notice beneath my foot
a headless bird the cat had killed & left
on the doorstep. There must be many more
I’ve never seen. How does anyone sleep
alone in a bare room with only a Bible
& an empty cup? Tonight, I’m kneeling
before a photo of myself at six. Guilt
pins me to the floor. In the photo
my arm’s around you before our first day
of school. In our fresh white uniform
shirts, we’re smiling. It’s hard to see now
since the photo never fully developed
or because after years of moving
from closet to closet, it’s faded. Brother,
how long will we go without speaking
before I start to think you’re dead
to me? My neighbor says my crying sounds
like a siren. When I hear an ambulance pass
I know someone’s trying to survive.