Winter Vacation

Let me tell you something about addicts
Mom says as she forms the face of God
in her mashed potatoes.
They’re depressed. Lonely. Desperate.
We dig our forks in silently.
They’ll lie, cheat and steal
for drug money.

My brother sits in his room
for dinner. He scratches
lottery ticket after ticket.
I need a luckier penny
he tells me. I try to remember
if I ever called anything lucky
or if I just liked the way certain pennies
jingled in my change purse.

2 plus 13 plus 7
He mutters, staring into bright
rectangles with cartoon pots of gold.
Nothing adds up to 21
He turns to me, hopeful I’ll disagree.
I nod, a gesture half thawed
out of some winter chill. He slinks back into
his childhood desk chair.
They’re all losers. Losers.
He cries.

When my mom and I are alone
the next afternoon has frosted over
in the kitchen. A deer appears
through the window in our backyard.
He rummages through a thin layer
of snow and leaf particles of left over
autumn memories.
He comes to the old tree that had fallen last night,
out of agreement to the wind. It sliced
our yard in half. Into two new territories.

Behind the tree, the deer considers the jutting branches.
Contemplates
cold peeling bark. He looks at us finally
to collect an answer, a deposit, a warmed-by-the fire soul.
My mom and I hold our breath.
Maybe we’re counting to heaven. Maybe we’re waiting
to see what he will do.

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