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My brother’s birthday is coming up, and I have been thinking about poems and lyrics on the subject of absent brothers. This is from Charles and Eddie; the song is “December 2”, from the album Duophonic (1992). You should go listen to it. And then come back. Please.

I wake up thinking that my brother’s here

can’t accept he’s gone away to the other side

I feel him watching over me sometimes

only time I ever get to feel like smiling

(chorus)

so heaven please don’t let me down

I only want to say hello to him

just make me want to live myself

cause right now I don’t feel much like it

(verse #2)

I tried so hard to understand this loss

we believed in Jesus but did he believe in us

my brother only lived to thirty one

now I’m my Mom and Dad’s only son

(chorus again)

so heaven please don’t let me down

I only want to say hello to him

just make me want to live myself

cause right now I don’t feel much like it.

This is verse as spoken word— much, much harder to do than it looks. The first line is a perfect iambic pentameter, as is the third. The only bad line— We believed in Jesus but did he believe in us— works because it enacts the lack of artifice that characterizes real sadness. And it sets up the gruesomely straightforward line, “My brother only lived to thirty one”, and the only tight rhyme in the song: thirty one/ only son. The song is a request, a favor the singer asks “heaven”– to allow him to say hello to his brother. Does it work? Is it heard? It is such a modest request; he doesn’t even ask for a response.

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