Tied to the tree, as I was, while my brother galloped
through the backyard, straddling a broom,
a plastic six-shooter in his hand.
I was always being left behind
in the mud, a bandage around my eyes,
until he reached out
just enough so that our fingers slipped apart
and he could ride away, calling out my name as the posse
But it wasn’t really my name
with its biblical limitations, no, he called out Johnny!!!
Johnny, that all-American from Kansas and Iowa, that Johnny
from New Jersey and Queens, a boy
people will beat their chests for as the flag is being folded
into its triangle of pity.
I was a sad little outlaw for so long!
Knowing my brother would have to live
without me. That he would be alone
in our room at night, a sheriff’s badge
pinned to his chest like a silver flower
blooming above his heart.
— Matthew Dickman
(via Narrative Magazine; thanks, Julia!).