Poem: My Baby Brother

Apr 01, 2023 by Bethel Swift, in Poetry
My Baby Brother

My baby brother tells me 
his inner child isn't enough.

That the old therapy hack
of taping a childhood photo up 
isn't enough for him, 
a full-grown man,
to put down the habits
that are burning him.

I start talking about joy,
about what drains and what sustains,
and how change can be as small 
as a whisper into the wind
that you want to feel [whole] again.

But it all leads back to baby steps.
I can remember his, but he can't;
can't even remember being the baby
before my mom brought in two more.

I wonder if he remembers how much
he loved babies when he still was one.

I wonder if he remembers how much
he was loved then? How much he is now?
I wonder if any of that matters in recovery.

He isn't famous, but he is an entertainer,
and I see in him the Amy Winehouse effect:
all joy in the ordinary beautiful is sapped –
without drugs, he doesn't want any of it.

Is it for me, desperate not to lose him, that I insist?
Sending cards collected from supportive strangers, 
showing him photos and memories from childhood.
See what a happy two-year-old you were?
Playing harmonica and silly dancing
by the bedside of your dying grandfather?

This week he tells me he spends two weeks 
with a dear friend – both of them mostly sober. 
Almost two full weeks that he can remember.

I breathe in gratitude, releasing some of my fear.
He tells me he wants more memories for himself.
So I know that worthwhile little boy is still there.