I’m eleven months older than my brother, Corey. I’ve heard the short delivery/conception time pejoratively called “Irish Twins”. My brother, Michael, arrived a year later, and then my sister, Lucinda, two years after him. Yes, my mother had four children within five years, by the time she was nineteen. As you can imagine when a fourteen year-old girl gets pregnant, stories are yet to surface and struggle to remain buried behind the narrative fancy known as memory aka imagination.
You may recall from previous blogs that my sister died when she was twenty-nine years-old from heart disease, and left her four and five-year old boys to be cared for my my mother. That was seventeen years ago. Recently, my brother, Corey, died October 17, 2020 at forty-nine years-old of complications from diabetes and pancreatic cancer. I was unable to attend his services due to COVID-19 pandemic and limitations on flying. More importantly, my mother is immunocompromised and at higher risk. The lack of closure with my mom and brother, Mike, (of our probably masked selves in a space together, the mingling warmth of our bodies) makes it seem as if Corey is still alive. I sometimes find myself excitedly thinking about the next time I get to see him after the pandemic, exhaling when I find I’ve been holding my breath.
I’ve created work over the years for, about, and inspired by Corey. I never shared them with him. Here is a poem, song, and essay: The Corey Trilogy. His death is the main inspiration for S|F Blog, for sharing my work and ideas at this moment. Losing him reminds me yet again to strive for connection, to be less guarded, to be open to love. S|F Blog*
There’s sorrow in your brown eyes;
it was, in mourning,
that I first saw you cry as a man
and now, I see the source of your pain
in my reflections
dusty, hot, farm-fed moments
when we longed to be black boys, brothers,
sons, fathers, people—loved.
is holding on
to us, to her,
everything that was and is life. We are
not alone so much as we are lonely,
and in this solitary place, we must reach
out, extend, embrace and release
while preparing to, as the consequence of feeling—
There is music swirling
behind your eyes
that has begun, with pain, to seep
out of your fingers a shade of beautiful,
composed with colors unmistakably yours.
Now free your eyes
and let it out your heart.
I was working on this song before Corey died. A few weeks later I got a new puppy and I was motivated to finish the song. She, Aiyana, helped me manage my anxiety and sadness, as well as my hope. Enjoy! below and/or via one of the links below on your favorite streaming platform. S|F Blog*
The Unmistakable Cover Job
(upon reading The Business of Memory, especially “Don’t Look” by Victoria Morrow)
Lawrence D. Benson
—For Corey. I miss you.—
I have always been fascinated by memory, things seemingly called up, forth, conjured from a moment that is not the present (but not necessarily the past, maybe the future, but that’s another temporal topic we can discuss later.) It’s going to be quite difficult for most to believe, but my earliest memory is of me as an infant, about two years-old, my younger brother, Corey, a truck, and fear . . .
Corey and I were born exactly eleven months apart: me, July 23rd, 1970, him, June 23rd, 1971. My mom describes him as a sickly baby with underdeveloped lungs and, as she tells it, he needed even more attention than did most babies. This specific day I recall was chilly and gray, autumnal. I remember leaves on the ground, a crisp breeze. My mother had bundled me and Corey for a trip to her uncle’s, Alex’s, house. We, including my father, piled into his truck. I remember it as a nice truck, I think, black. Since my brother and I were both infants, my mother propped me between her and my father and transported Corey, strapped in his carrier (there were no car seats back then) on her lap. I remember pulling up to my uncle’s house, a white, one-level reminiscent of a trailer home, a “step” up. There was a bare, concrete driveway, and a chain link fence around his property that separated the driveway from the yard. There was a large, calming tree to the right of the entry gate. I remember it because I was at once put at ease by the tree and made uncomfortable by its nakedness.
As we pulled up, my father shifted to park and cut the engine. He got out of the truck, shut the door without reaching for me as he usually did. I remained, confused. My mother looked at me, mouthed something that I now put together to the effect of Stay right here with your brother. Mommy’ll be right back, okay? She placed my brother’s carrier on the bucket seat where she had been sitting next to me, shut the door, and walked off trailing my father who was already at the front door of the house. It seemed like an eternity. Corey sat quietly in his carrier, eyes open wide. I sat alternately looking at him then peering through the dash window at my uncle’s front door, waiting for it to open and for my parents to appear.
This is where memory, probably marked by trauma and guilt, does its unmistakable cover job.
All I really remember at this point is my brother’s carrier sliding towards the truck door, then out of it. How did he start sliding? How did the door come open? Had my mother not closed it properly? Was it faulty? Had I opened the door and pushed my brother out? I recall the terror of not realizing that the truck was not moving and that my brother would not be run over. I couldn’t see him because the distance from the front seat to the concrete drive seemed like one-hundred feet to me, an infant. My brother was gone, out of sight, and I began to cry as loudly as possible, probably louder than I ever had.
Between my tears and inching toward the open truck door (I was afraid I might fall and disappear as well), my parents appeared and ran towards the truck. I cried harder, tears of rescue, and then my mother found him, Corey, my little brother on the ground strapped into his carrier, still not crying. She picked him up, placed him back on the truck seat, and then looked at me as if to say, It’s okay, Baby. He’s alright. He didn’t get hurt. See, here he is. The question How did the truck door get open? also lingered in her look, accusatory and apologetic.
I don’t remember driving off. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember if I even remember this story, or if my mind: longing and dark, guilty and partially lit, has assembled this story from those told to me and those dreamed, like so many other stories supposedly past and future. As with Morrow and her inability or unwillingness to recall her brother and mother as they truly were, this story could be my mind’s way of dealing with an unspeakable act: that I pushed my brother out of the truck. He was getting the attention that had been mine, that was taken from me too fast, too soon. Maybe I wanted him gone? Maybe I wanted to be the only one in the front of the truck.
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