My Brother as Anonymous Bather


After “Mountain Stream,” by John Singer Sargent (1914)


The spring after my brother admitted
he was an addict, we spent a week
at the Laurel River, the rush of snow-
melt to wash clean our winter wants,

our fresh guilt. One morning I discovered him

gone, the rented cabin empty except
for the shadow of panic tailing me
like a loyal dog. I stumbled down

to the river, the high water roaring

loud as a bad engine—and there
he was, crouched like Sargent’s
anonymous bather, naked & thrilled

by cold, a streak of flesh in the dark

stones. Too close to the great tumble
of white water, his body
possessed the lithe assurance of a man

comfortable at catastrophe’s cusp.

He leaned forward, peering into a pool
cut through by sunlight, a crawdad
picking its way over a heap of pebbles

at the bottom. The pool hollowed

by the river’s will alone, the surface
stippled from the spray
churning angrily just feet away.

And my little brother— the water’s

reflection scattering his face, misted
tangle of hair holding the sun
in chaotic halo—always leaning closer.

Kiyoko Reidy