Under This Roof

My brother
has come to live with us
and how could we know
how deliberate
his hands
would be: at the sink,
thawing beans
stringy from too hot a June,
smoothing hairs
that whisper about
my sons’ ears, locking the door
against the snow. His hands
move slow as a dream, the kind
where no one watches out
for you as you slip over
the edge and sprawl
wordlessly down mountains
of air or time or floors
of people doing ordinary things
like switching on a lamp
or thumbing coins
in a pocket or typing out
a dissertation on the circus
which is the only thing my brother
feels proud about doing
in his whole holy life
–and here he is, living
in our basement
and looking at me
over waffles
as though I have given him
something
to be grateful for.


Susanna Childress lives in Holland, Michigan, and teaches writing at Hope College. Recently her work was selected by Sherman Alexie for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series. She has published two books of poetry, writes short fiction and creative nonfiction and makes up half of the music group Ordinary Neighbors, whose songs are based on her writing (the other half is her spouse, the wildly talented Joshua Banner). This poem first appeared in The New South.

Photo by Nell Howard/Flickr, used under Creative Commons License