By José Olivarez

he posts on Facebook, the digital block.
all his old friends & crushes come by to
dap him up. imagine the flowers they place
on his lap. he smells them, but not for long.

back when he graduated from college, he threw
his cap into the sky & it fluttered like a bird
with a broken wing. when it landed, my brother
was still broke & unemployed. the day my brother

gets into grad school, he can’t afford a happy meal
& still the praise comes through: my mom thanks
god. my dad offers my brother a cold beer, which
is how my family celebrates everything: a toast.

a drink. my dad prays between gulps. my mom
drinks when god blinks. my family: two fists
colliding. nothing strong enough to stop
my parents from raising a home in a city

being razed or to stop my dad’s steel mill from closing or
the foreclosure notice from landing at our doorstep,
& here we are, my brother is going to grad school:
another promise, the familiar fluttering. my brother

grown in the after wash of a cold beer. in the after
math of a long prayer. amongst the weeds in the vacant
lot that used to house our dreams. mixed up with dirt.
ordinary ground. no magic but water.



José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants and the author of the book of poems, Citizen Illegal, in which this poem appears. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast The Poetry Gods and a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, & the Conversation Literary Festival. He lives in Chicago.

Cover image by Brad Knight.

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