Brimstone

Brimstone

Frances Boyle

He smoulders over perfidy and putrefaction. My brother,
back from saving the world. He witnessed children
made to work like slaves in emerald mines in Brazil,
forests stripped and water polluted, while hired thugs
‘keep peace’ for multinationals. Poison, he tells me,
gets papered over with silky PR, policies and promises.
Soldier of no fortune, he calls himself, bringing his fervent
crusader gaze to my small orbit of life and compromise.

We were raised country, with church on Sundays
but I haven’t been for years. The old stories seemed
suspect when it came to women: Eve’s bad rap;
and how about Lot’s wife? Turned to salt, but all she did
was look back to check on friends, a home she cherished,
the hearth she had kindled to a household. All left instead
when angels took her by the hand, to a rain of burning sulphur.

So, it’s his talk of hellfire and brimstone that shocks me
more than his bearded pallor, the weary approximation
of the easy ways we used to have. The new processing
plant down the road he calls a boil on the county’s ass,
a festering furuncle. Hyperbole to make me smile,
but his eyes are animate with righteous blaze.

He wants to cut losses, says the township’s in ruination,
like the planet. Little worth in our old home, just four walls,
gnarled fruit trees and fields gone fallow in nursing home years.
I see green on the farm pond brilliant as gemstones, while he
sniffs the fetid stench of scum, another scourge on the land.

I’m the one who’s taking the house in hand. I sweep
and scrub, wash walls and light fixtures, haul junk
to the dump by the truckload. I walk the orchard, ponder
how I might prune the topiary tangle of his intensity,
snip it back to the shape of the brother I knew. This farm
is our legacy. I can’t hover at an auction, watch alone
as our parents’ treasures sell. I guess I’m becoming
sentimental; I need us both to take just one look back.

Frances Boyle

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