MY COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT – by John Grey

My older brother would tag along
after my sadness.
He’d watch me stuff my head in the pillow,
scratch at the blankets, squeeze the sheets
together like the pimple on my chin.
“What have you got to complain about,”
was his favorite saying.

I’d take a swipe at him.
It was house money. At best,
I’d connect with his silly jaw.
At worst, he’d grab me by the arms
and hold me until my spit subsided.
Then we’d laugh.
He was right.
Teenage girls, acne, and algebra –
the unholy trio were cut down
by their own absurdity.

He was a farter par excellence
and the sneakiest of cigarette smokers.
And he always knew where to get his thumbs on
the latest Playboy magazine.
He taught me the ways of the woods,
not the names of tree and wildflowers
but the cussing you could get away with on the trail.

His vital signs took no comfort
in the screen blips
and the tube floating from his arm.
I figured maybe broken windows,
carpet burns, crash-landing model airplanes,
would scare the crap out of an aneurysm.

He was lying in bed, silent and still,
surrounded by at least one pretty nurse
and two ultra-forgiving parents.
I wanted to burst out with,
“What have you got to complain about.”
But I kept my tongue.
My biggest complaint, to this very day,
is with people who’d rather die than complain.

richardjheby

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