after your brother

by Natalie Perman



I wish I had never tried octopus / the tentacles curled and fried / and dipped in butter /

we ate under the whiskers of a black cat / and you stayed over / the nose trailing us /

into the night / you suggested I pack an extra jumper / as the month was full / of rain /

you suggested we had sex in the attic / while your parents were sleeping /

I slapped you once / and the heat filled / your cheek / spilling over into my palm /

you spilled the rest / how the bed had bars / like a crib / how you had a bottle beside your bed /

with a blue cap that didn’t fit / and a collection / of novelty coins /

how you drew end pain on your wall / because you thought it was cool / to pretend /

houses and dreams were haunted / the half-full bottle of vodka you sipped on /

before you threw up / to show you were grown and would heel / to harder more brittle things / your sofa blanketed with dog hair / and one white sock / too small for a human hand /

we drank strawberry milkshakes / next to our fathers’ student house /

before you cracked branches / and beat flowers with a stick /

you sent pictures of yourself to my friend / with no clothes /

we watched a show / where giants screamed at small villagers / and gobbled up cities /

crushing a house under a fingernail / your last girlfriend started her period /

you asked to kiss me / and I did not say yes / but your lips tasted warm /

as if you had just been laughing / I slept with the light on /

even though your mother said / it would give me headaches /

we swum out from a boat / into something nameless and sticky /

you wanted metal / and two z’s under your left eyebrow /

I pulled the moth of a memory away from the lampshade / with a toothpick /

it flew around us in tattoo shops / next to a skating rink / as we looked at plastic figurines /

it was a good memory / because you were sober /

it was bad / because your shirt already had a thread / running out of it


NATALIE PERMAN reads English and German at St John's. She's two letters and a Harvard degree away from Natalie Portman, but working on it.


Art by Sam Griffiths