Man now (a poem for my brother)

You used to cry every night
until your eyes bled red
and your voice shrunk,
and salt stained you.
I’ve memorized the shape of your mouth when you cry
it’s chaos.
like
when at thirteen you shot up growing a foot and some,
muscles filling in round the ribs,
arms growing broader,
toughening up so quick
your body larger than the average kid.
and I always laughed when you broke shit,
your bones too big for your age.
Baby
you were,
but man you were treated.
I know people misread you all the time for your age and height,
telling you to grow up when you fight,
classifying you with age if you say something wise-
I remember when you told mom to remember that you are still a kid,
and I made sure you knew you can always talk to me
when life gets scary.
It does,
you can,
blood comes before classification.
You’re my little brother, yes,
but I see you like a big person
towering over me like a palm tree
extending the arms you are gaining control over.
I feel pride in you because you’re brave enough to  be a man now,
even though baby,
you’re fourteen years old
and being tough won’t always keep life from happening.
Like yesterday, when you called me into your room.
Your eyes got real soft and milky,
and I saw more man in your way of being
and more child in the chocolate brown of your blink.
You told me about this weekend,
how you took your drunk friend to the train
in the ghetto because you’re always being
man now and you,
walking crooked in your wiggly tall legs,
in your too big body, walked the wrong way back,
and didn’t notice until some kid,
some fucking kid pulled a gun out on you.
My baby, brother,
because you look man now,
get picked out on dark corners,
not getting skipped over for being a child,
you don’t get that much.
That kid said “give me your shit”
and you,
real slick,
heavy pistol pressed against your chest,
the power of death between you
and that sick stranger,
thought on your feet before losing your shit
throwing your wallet on the ground
you ran.
He yelled,
your feet thumping
all
the
way
home.
You wrote when you got there,
the way I told you is good for you,
I wanted to cry when you told me this,
I’m glad you did.
The thought of you in danger,
my baby, man now, brother,
stirs something wicked and righteous in my chest,
you deserve childhood like any other
even if you stand firm like palm trees,
I must remind you to stay soft.
I smile when you are done telling.
Thankful that you spoke,
I tell you
I will always be here for you.
Man then, child now,
child then, man now,
you are allowed to flutter back and forth,
with me,
your vulnerable is safe.
I asked you how you felt when you woke up
and you said you’d never been so happy, thankful, blessed to be alive,
told me you weren’t going to tell anybody
even though it changed something deep inside
your fluctuating man-boy heart.
The world is a scary place, baby
and you’re in the in between.
I know how hard transitioning can be,
but baby, man now, you can always pause
take a time out,
come talk to me,
let it out.
You are blood,
you are person
you are no more and no less
than perfect and growing
to me, this is what family means.
And if you ever need to cry,
like you did every night as a child,
I will wipe your tears,
tell you I’m here,
I’m not going anywhere,
I won’t let you feel

any less
man now.

A poem for my brother

I know you love the confidence
Kanye West brings to the stage,
and
Jordans are your favorite thing-

I know this because you’ve asked me for my nail polish remover
to erase any dirt or stains,
your kicks are the first thing anyone sees,
and it’s important to set off on the right foot with people,
you say.

I know you like rap music too,
you shoot hoops and talk like a white kid from the hood,
not to say that it’s not all good-
but why does everyone always notice
that you stand out amongst all your black friends?

I hear people saying you’re just going through a phase,
as if every black man likes Jordans, Kanye, and talking slang-
as if you were copying, pretending, and not just doing your thing

so to those who don’t know you:
We are all different…

and stereotypes are just stereotypes,
no, my brother doesn’t think he’s black,
and even if he does why is that so out of whack?

As if the color of anyone’s skin should affect expectations.

As if rap is always satanic and not what my brother has found
motivation to do his science project on photosynthesis,
rapping like he thinks he’s Nas, Jay-Z or Biggie,

As if that A he earned doesn’t really mean as much
because he did it in the way of a stereotype he doesn’t even fit into.

I don’t care if you think all black boys talk slang,
Asians look the same,
Mexicans smell like dirt, sweat, and kitchen stains,

How about you start characterizing people
by their accomplishments,
and not the insulting stereotypes,
We all endeavor to work hard,
that deserves acknowledgment,

especially since we’ve all got our own set of DNA
separating us from they-

But I bet you didn’t know that the separation has nothing to do with race,
it’s time to peel back our skins like paint,
shed the stereotypes that accompany our taint,

so that my little brother can be himself
without being accused of trying to mimic another race.