Middle Brother: Recollections in Verse

Middle Brother

I don’t think I’ve ever told you

How you were born too early

At the Tachikawa hospital.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you

The fear I had the night you were born.

How I ran to fetch a nurse as mother screamed

How the nurses tried to push you back into our mother’s belly.

Your first moments in the world were of being caught by our father’s hands

Hands that were cupped as if in prayer.

He whispered the Shahada in your ear

Before the nurses carted you away from us.

I blame myself for your name

Chosen last minute in a hospital hallway.

You could have been Mohammed, Yusuf, or Umar

Instead you were named Isa.


Three letters blending in musical harmony

Compared to these other choices.

That was how it sounded

to ten-year-old me.

It hurts that you suffered

Because of your name

When we were stationed

In a Spanish-speaking state.

A state so far removed from our communities in Japan

A state where a name ending in an ‘A’ denotes feminine traits

A state where no one understood the beauty behind your name

Your name in a way reflects our mixed cultural identities

Meaning number one in Filipino

And Jesus in its true form.

I am sorry for the torment it has caused you.

I wanted to name you Zach.

That New Year’s Eve was lonely.

There was no celebrating the new millennium

When you were filled with tubes.

I worried about you.

I still do.

I am told parents are supposed to shelter and protect us

But who is there to protect us from them?

Or them from each other?

I’ve tried to protect you in those early years

From the rage and the pain in our household.

But it wasn’t nearly enough.

That one night

Was the first of many nights

The police would step through our door.

You cried and cried.

You didn’t see the knife

Or the blood on the floor

And for that I am thankful.

I wish I was there for you more

When you were juggled back and forth

Between households

And unhappiness.

I was too focused

On forgetting these households

And on my own unhappiness.

Middle brother

Those dark years are past us now.

As you forge your own way

Know you are strong and more than capable

To overcome any setback.

Know you are loved

Because you have always been so

From the beginning.

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