Get off crack.
You are a selfish motherfucker.
Get off crack.
Remember when I used to call you stupid
and you would cry and once you hit me
on the head with the canister vac?
I was right.
This letter is only out of love
or so I've been told
You are one of only two brothers and a stepbrother
I have, and I don't want to lose you
Please get help
You are not the messiah.
You are not a hip-hop artist.
You are not black because the Bible says Jews were enslaved in Egypt
and there must have been cross-pollination.
You are a crack-addicted half-Jewish half-Irish whiteboy.
I can't give you money because I don't want to enable you
but please get some and buy a fucking clue.
is that I gave up on you years ago
I had heard enough stories
by the time you were nine and banned
from the mall for trying to return a stolen video
to the shelf
I was glad when you were caught at fourteen
breaking into cars because you left your wallet in one
(Dad talked the guy out of pressing charges--I was the one
who answered the phone)
dealing acid, selling stolen CDs, building gallon-jug bongs
out of Mom's basement (I was the one
who watched Dad tear Mom's house apart--it was the night
of the Allen Ginsberg reading)
blaming John Bailey for everything his mother blamed you for
I was glad when you were finally sent away
and even better to Broyhill
and even that you were caught again over your Christmas visit
and that when you came back, I was already in Ohio
I was glad when our mother forgot to tell me
about the drug dealer you fucked
who showed up at their house and pointed a gun
at our stepfather, who has never been anything but kind
(Somehow he talked the man out of killing you
Somehow he talked the man out of even waiting for you)
The supposed mugging in downtown Cleveland
that caused you to disappear
for the three days following New Year's 1999
The televisions, VCRs, camcorders your "friends" gave you
Your Wal-Mart merchandise-scanning scam
And fuck how our mother swallows your bullshit
You called to tell me this
You called crying, and I even cried myself
You said you needed help, that it was all so fucked up,
and I reached out through my reservations
And you stopped talking to me
And you kept using
And I remembered to give up again
Enough. You don't deserve this much.
Our mother has asked each of us
to write you a letter
You have become your addictions
There is nothing else to say
(This poem was originally published in TIN HOUSE Magazine.)