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Not Brothers

 

Late at night the old West dusts

off its sepia heroes and villains

 

and I discover that Billy the Kid

was not the youngest brother

 

of Frank and Jesse James, did not

die in a gunfight at the Ok Corrall

 

as the boys in our school played.

Tarnished guns in homemade

 

holsters, they opened their veins

with compasses and  pen knives,

 

pressed the delicate, pale wrists

together, swore allegiance for ever;

 

until the next week, when a new

loyalty unpicked the scabs and

 

eventually they were all blood

brothers. We envied this game,

 

already knowing our undying

loves would be undone by differently

 

shed blood, the drape of veil,

garlands of rose, and milk and milk.

 

 

© Linda McKenna

Picture 10998050, 1880s illustration, image copyright Mary Evans / Glasshouse Images

 

 

Linda McKenna is from Dublin and lives in County Down.  She has had poems published in, among others,  Poetry Ireland Review, The North, The Honest UlstermanCrannóg, Banshee, Skylight 47, The Blue Nib, Dodging the Rain, and on the Mary Evans Picture Library Poems and Pictures site.  She won the Seamus Heaney award for new writing in March 2018, and the Red Line Book Festival (Poetry) award in October 2018.  Her debut collection, In the Museum of Misremembered Things, was published by Doire Press in March 2020.  The title poem won the An Post/IBAS/Listowel Writers’ Week Irish poem of the year.