A Substitution for Grace

in ancient Egypt, bees were said to carry spirits into the afterlife

If prayer is listening, brother, you’re drowning
in sound, the bombs falling closer with each step
you take to the checkout counter, the beer
precariously balanced against the wine
I pay for, because you lost your wallet again.

When you were flung into battle—
your entrails and secrets pulled into light—
you were born again, whole as you are now,
but older as you never were. Pull the barbed
stinger back out. Only honey bees die
for their ardor. If you never loved

me, we’d never have fought so hard
to stay together. If you never loved
living, you’d never have killed to stay alive.
Suffering will not make better the things
you’ve done. Numbing will not let us
forget. You cannot dull the soul, Little Brother.

If I could dip my thumbs in honey
and press them to your eyes, embalm
your heart the moment before it ruptured—
such miracles—I would call you back
inside the house. The sun is hot, namdongsaeng.
Come away, peel your wax wings back
from the dead. And if not, let me carry you

again, a boy limp in my arms, dreaming.