Mis-Remembering The Five Chinese Brothers

I remember only two.
One brother, who bent down
on the shore of the ocean,
and put his mouth into the calm sea.
When he raised his face
he held in his two cheeks
all the water of the ocean.
I imagine that he bent down
to drink the water as if from a spring,
and yet the surface must have
seemed an eternity to him,
a landscape of liquid
he struggled not to swallow.
His cheeks were huge
with the mass of water.

He did it for his brother, I think,
who had lost something and had to walk
the ocean floor to find it,
passed the fish that lay there gasping,
like treasure.
The detritus of the deep
was a paradise of death
he could not go by boat to find.

On the shore,
the brother held
his breath like a prophet.
Not a drop of water dripped from
his blue lips.
Was it whim or lunacy
that kept that water in
like a withheld confession?

What is a miracle but
the shape of a cheek,
the vanishing of flesh and water?

What would you do for a brother
who has lost something?
Would you swallow the sea
like a hymn—
or a blessing?

About the Author

Taika Brand-Matthews’s poetry has appeared in Fish Stories: III, Connecticut River Review, and Catalyst, and has been read on National Public Radio.