Anthony Lee
    Jack Grapes has written, “Lee’s poems are not quaint exercises in poetic form. They grab you by the throat with their personal intensity, jostle your brain with their intellectual bravery, and startle your heart with their spirit and insight.” Anthony A. Lee, Ph.D. teaches African American history (and other subjects) at UCLA. His poems have been published in ONTHEBUS, The Homestead Review, Arts Dialogue, Warpland, and the 2003 anthology of the Valley Contemporary Poets (Sherman Oaks, CA). He is the winner of the Nat Turner Poetry Prize for 2003 (Cross Keys Press). His first book of poems, This Poem Means, was the winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award for 2005 (Lotus Press). Some of his translations have been published in Táhirih: A Portrait in Poetry: Selected Poems of Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Kalimát Press, 2004). 

We Were Brothers, After All
even though he loved chocolate cake
and I wouldn't touch it,
he liked hamburgers with ketchup and mustard,
and I only ate hot dogs plain,
his favorite color was blue, and
I don't remember what my favorite was,
but it sure as hell wasn't blue,
that much I know,
because one thing that was for certain
back then was that I was the opposite
of my brother in every way.
He was daddy's boy,
and I was mama's.
He was a bad boy,
and I was a good one.

And I knew that
because I heard it from
my mother's mouth,
"You are such a good little boy"
and it swelled like a melody,
musical and sweet,
like a lullaby to put me to sleep
or a funeral dirge
to tell the world that, sleeping,
I could never wake,
only lie in the black suit and proper tie,
perfect and motionless.

My mother sent him away
once, and he stayed with my father
for a while, and I don't know
how I got along without him,
living without a shadow.
My mother had me to herself then,
and I must have had her.
When he came back,
and my brother told me
about his first lays-
well, not told me really
because you didn't say those things
back then, but only hinted
and joked around with a dirty smile-
but when he did that,
I thought he was disgusting
and held on to my virginity for years after
like a rubber doll with no vagina.
And he worked as a pimp
and married a prostitute
whom I actually got to know later
and thought she was nice,
nicer that he was.
But then, I didn't know about
the heroin that both of them were on.

And he thought I was disgusting,
and even said so once
and told me I was gay,
which was the worst
thing he could think of at the time.
But besides that, he
couldn't take the religion
and all the university stuff
that he couldn't understand
and maybe was even afraid of-
it didn't have anything
to do with getting laid
or shooting up, which was all that
mattered to him by then.
But, of course, if he was using smack,
he wasn't getting laid,
'cause that's one of the things you
have to give up when you're a junkie.
And I had given it up,
or hadn't really started yet.
And I didn't even have the fun
of getting high.

We looked at each other
in the mirror, but
we, after all, were brothers
and we were just alike,
except that my junk was philosophy
and dreams of world peace.
He lay down one midnight and took
his final dose of heroin and coke
in a neighbor's dining room
where he was sleeping for the night.
My death will be slower,
if I ever find a place to rest.

© 2012 Anthony Lee
Anthony Lee was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the December 2012 Second Sunday Poetry Series