Issue #3 // Dear Brother // April Penn

When we lived in Louisiana,
the cockroaches scared me to pieces
at night with that humid air
swirling its dense particles.
I saw the long, foggy bodies of ghosts.

And, like an instinct,
when the doctor bops the center of your knee,
I flinched and ran
to seek shelter in your room on the top bunk.

One night, we made a secret pact.
We promised we’d never marry anyone ever.
Marriage was polluted like the Tangipahoa River,
which Mom, ever an environmental activist, fought to save.

She didn’t recognize the air around her
as that river’s water haunting her.
But she admitted that she too sees the particles
in the air, and she always wondered
if others knew what was there.

My home is the air, yours, a computer screen,
ten hours spent playing World of Warcraft.
You only eat jars of peanut butter or blocks of cheese.
You never date anyone ever.
I actually date, and
I feel ashamed to deviate at all from our pact.

It’s not that I want to repeat the same way we grew up,
but sometimes I get lonely,
and my heart revolves around a new love interest,
even if the connection is Tinder or Okcupid.

After all, I was the scared one
who crept into your room.
I needed to be close to someone.
You always slept on your back,
ridged as a brick, as if no one had ever
held you until you curled into yourself.

April Penn participates in the 365 Blog, a challenge to write a poem every day for a year. She has featured at the Cantab Poetry Lounge, Out of the Blue Gallery, Occupy Boston and UMASS Amherst. She is currently working on a manuscript of poems about gender identity. Check out her blog: or email her at


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