With My Brother

Robert Ostrom

Untying ropes from flagpoles.

Motionless, reluctant, unchanged

even by the stillness of flags

in a century of ordinary flags. How

I love to ride with my brother

even if below our joy persists

a collective hush and something

like Lake Michigan in which we know

the day is long and the once true things

still are: What will I throw my weight

into today? Where are the sour

among the sweet cherries? The salt

from sweat makes our skin stick

but my brother is full of privilege

and things that comfort, of family

anger, that old-house feeling.

This poem, sent out through the Poem-A-Day service, seemed very obscure to me at first. The first few lines start our all referring to flags, but the majority of the poem I found unrelated and almost random. After more careful consideration, I noticed that the poet’s brother was the main constant throughout the work. In all the discussion from flags to the lake to sweating skin, both the author and his brother experience their mood and emotions together. Even as the imagery becomes more somber and they begin looking for the “sour cherries,” both siblings stick together through their familial bond.

The last five lines of Ostrom’s poem were very interesting to me. It contrasts the sweaty skin of the author (which seemed to characterize them as part of a working class) with his brother’s feelings of privilege. He also writes about “things of comfort” and “that old house feeling”, but these do not seem to fit very well with “family anger.” Although I would consider an old, familiar house to be comforting, anger in one’s family (even if it might be typical for that family) is far from a thing of privilege or comfort. It is unclear why the brother feels exactly this way, but it is the one point of contingency between him and the author throughout the entire text of the poem since he normally loves “to ride with [his] brother even if below [their] joy persists a collective hush…”


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