The Other Son, by Craig Dobson
The Other Son
I saw him first, a well-fed shadow – though thinner still than mine
if luckier hands had led me across the peacock lawns of baize
and through the snorted nights whose sequinned stars left each tuxedo dawn.
Those champagne breakfasts let me lie, exhausted,
the sky’s roulette-red sunrise offering odds of dreamless luxury
I never could resist.
All the rest was to impress: myself, strangers, friends, the critical
ever-presence father gifted, along with all the money,
when I swaggered away from home.
Nothing that relentless can be fun, and from the start I went at it like a curse,
some demented calling, which was why I was back, with nothing left
but time to meet my expectations, to order their extent.
Remorse, shame, indignity, buzzard-thick above my shaven head.
But what smashed the mirror shard of my unseen better self
was the pride I felt in him, standing where I should’ve been.
The rags he didn’t wear, the gap-toothed grin he didn’t share,
wept around with sores, the trackless arms he held out, half-unsure,
his clear eyes widening at my ghost, the choking voice he used to shout the news,
the hurry in his step to fetch our father out, ignoring the palm I raised to stop him –
my mind changed, my gambler’s sense suddenly aware of all he stood to gain,
in fairness, should I depart again, choosing to re-break the old man’s heart,
to retract my filthy, outstretched hand that held, for once, more than even I could lose.
Craig Dobson lives and works in the UK. He has had poems and short stories published in Poetry Ireland Review, The Rialto, New Welsh Review, The North, The London Magazine, The Interpreter's House, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Poetry Daily Website, among others.
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