The Outlaw Pose

by Chris Haven

In any picture of brothers
you can tell the dapper one,
hat the angle of Saturn’s rings.
Each necktie inexpertly tied,
one so fat it doesn’t matter.
The older is the better killer.
Thin fingers, each a born trigger.
Your lips would know the names
of these brothers if you lived then.
Part of you would have feared,
all of you would have loved
the milkyness of their eyes.
The whiskey in the picture
more than mere prop, or
maybe everything’s just a prop,
wanted poster for all our doors.
It’s the younger one you relate to.
Top lip strains an overbite.
You recognize the way inadequacy sits
next to his more vicious brother
like you tolerate your most private stink.
The younger’s hat’s a better fit for a mule,
but he plods along. The hapless
ones he kills end up just as dead.
The boys’ shoulders slope,
neither large enough to carry a long life.
The ears of the older one tilt—
he will hear the one that gets them,
but the little brother, he will never know.
He will die in a hush. He’s been leaking
gunpowder from his ass since the day he was born,
each day down a lucky accident,
biding the spark that will take out him,
his brother, the horses they rode in on.
But for now, it’s time to look at the camera,
light splashing across stupid foreheads,
wide as a country, blank as law.

CHRIS HAVEN’s recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cincinnati ReviewBarely South ReviewHobartPleiadesBoxcar Poetry ReviewMid-American Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.