Tanja Bartel

The brother with a big gun
tattoo on his neck
showed up
an hour late.
Missed the ceremony.
They were already
signing the book.

I saw them hugging later,
black tux embracing
black hoodie.
The bad brother
blubbering, unzipped.

Their mother
in a tight tangerine dress
had already moved on.
Shoes kicked onto the grass
dancing in a group
of twenty-somethings
mouthing country lyrics.

It all happened in L’s backyard
during her last summer alive
with her 12-year-old boy
manning the drink table,
taking tickets and tips
hand over fist.

Tanja Bartel is a writer and high school teacher who holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in various journals, such as American Journal of Medical Genetics, The Puritan, Rusty Toque, NewPoetry, The Maynard, Grain, and CV2.