Cathy Smith Bowers

A Suit Our Brother Could Have Worn

In a family loyal to the ghost of our home state,
there’s always the renegade

cousin. Old aunt who retreats
at Christmas. The turncoat niece.

Infantries of nephews
threatening to secede. And then to

secede from that. This time it was Mother,
who couldn’t believe my sister

and I would darken the door
of that funeral home where

her own dead sister’s husband
lay. Not one of them

had shown—not even a card—
when our darling brother

died. The two of us went anyway. Rendezvoused
at a store we knew

on the outskirts of our hometown where
nothing could have prepared

me for what happened there. For the way
my sister turned to me, seized both my

just-washed hands and pressed
them without warning to her burgeoning breasts.

What leap of time and space,
not to mention faith,

had catapulted me to the toilet of the Stop & Save where
I now stood, caressing my younger sister?

She who all her life had prayed for ampleness.
Whose padded bra I’d poke in jest

if she walked past and Mother wasn’t looking. Whose
flesh rose now like jellied mounds

beneath my startled palms. Later we were shocked
to see our uncle lying there so small, not

half the man he used to be in a suit our
brother could have worn.

Our dry-eyed cousins seemed perplexed when we
began to weep, nieces—not even blood—shaking

in each other’s arms above a bible made of papier-mache
and flanked in plastic mums. Finally

someone spoke to comfort us — You know, he always
could’ve stood to lose a little weight.

On our drive back to the Stop & Save, my
sister blew her nose and wiped her eyes

then reached inside her dress and pulled
them out, two small

sacs of silicone she’d ordered on the internet.
These things are killing me, she said,

and rolled her window down. Sometimes I wonder,
still, what passed through the stranger’s

mind who found them lying there.