counting the dead

a woman at work innocently asked
and where’s your other brother?

even after ten years I often cannot
bring myself to say he’s dead

so I said Minnesota instead,
which I think he’s probably laughing about

wherever he is or isn’t

saying now that I have one brother
feels false as soon as the words are formed

so there must be a way of counting the dead –
but until I find a math that works,

I have two – although one of them currently
is unreachable somewhere in Minnesota

© Sarah Whiteley

I really did say “Minnesota” though I don’t know what possessed me at the time. And he would be laughing over it, which makes me smile. But I still never know whether to say I have two brothers or one.


  1. Beautiful, Sarah, and this brings to mind if someone asked me about my Mom who has passed…I wouldn’t say that I don’t have a Mom because I do. She’s just no longer “with” us. So if I were in your shoes, I would still say “two.” These are only my thoughts and I love your humor through the serious tone…xx



  2. I once overheard this conversation: Q: “Where do you think we go when we die?” A: “Why do you think we have to GO anywhere?”
    Authenticity–truth–in a poem is so precious….this one is grand, Sarah



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